Business Concepts for Life Scientists
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To enroll in this class, you first need to sign up to iBiology Courses as a student (or sign in if you're already a student).

Course Overview

This course is designed for graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty who wish to gain a basic understanding of business fundamentals

Course Features

  • Introduction to business concepts: strategies, finance & business development
  • Ways to use business concepts in your research
  • Tools to apply business fundamentals to starting a lab or going to industry
  • Lecture videos, podcasts, and assessments

Course Details

Enrollment Starts Enrollment is open
Course Starts Anytime, self-paced
Estimated Effort 3:00 hours/week
Certificate Yes
Badge Yes

About This Course

The purpose of the Business Concepts for Life Scientists course is to enhance PhD scientists’ understanding of foundational business concepts. This business coursework is unique because it is designed to prepare scientists for career transitions into both academic and non-academic settings. The course comprises a series of three modules - Business Strategy, Finance and Business Development.

This course is designed for graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty who wish to gain a basic understanding of business fundamentals. The goal is to impact participants' career readiness by helping prepare scientists who want to start their own labs, and inform scientists who want to go into industry.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Explain key terms used in the business and financial management of scientific enterprises.
  • Apply foundational concepts to your own research planning.
  • Develop increased confidence in using business terminology during interviews or networking events.
  • Identify knowledge areas within business for further study.

This course includes lecture videos, podcasts, and assessment questions to help you learn basic concepts in business strategy, business development and finance. There are two assessment tracks in the course, an "Analyze a Company" track and a "My Strategic Plan" track. In the "Analyze a Company" track you will choose an existing company to investigate as a case study to apply the business concepts you are learning in the course. In the "My Strategic Plan" track you will apply the business concepts in the course to yourself and your own research plans. The assessments of each track are compiled into a final document that you can print and save for yourself. The "My Strategic Plan" track will empower you to think about and take ownership of your short- and long-term research goals. For individuals interested in pursuing business-related science careers, the "Analyze a Company" track will provide a starting point from which to learn business vocabulary and gain confidence to engage professionals and alumni in professional settings (e.g., networking and interviewing conversations).

To pass this course and get a certificate of completion, you only need to answer enough questions to complete one of the assessment tracks. However, to get the full benefit of the course, we strongly encourage course participants to complete both tracks.

Course topics

Business Strategy

This module provides information about how scientific enterprises develop strategy and how organizational context impacts resource allocation. Participants will learn and apply basic concepts of business strategy (e.g. value proposition, identifying stakeholders and vision) to academic and industry settings.

Business Development

This module presents an overview how business development contributes to a scientific enterprise's vision and goals, and deal types. Participants will learn and apply basic concepts of business development (e.g. deal structure, deal funding, and collaborations) in academic and industry settings.

Strategic Collaborations

This module presents an overview of how scientific enterprises engage in collaborations. Participants will learn the nuts and bolts of what each side seeks to achieve, and the partnering process for Academic-Biopharma collaborations. Participants will also learn the soft skills needed to collaborate successfully in the video "On Being Collaborative and Influential".

Strategy Toolkits

This module presents an overview of tools used to develop and assess strategy. Participants will learn and apply frameworks such as SWOT or PEST analyses to evaluate an operating environment including competitors, stakeholders, supplies, and economic, regulatory or technology trends. Participants will also learn about tools to help set, generate, and prioritize an enterprise's goals.


This module presents an overview of financial statements and concepts in financial planning. Participants will learn and apply basic concepts of business finance (e.g. calculating burn rate, opportunity cost, and net present value) to academic and industry settings.


There are no requirements necessary to take this class.

Course Directors

Photo of Thi Nguyen

Thi Nguyen

Thi Nguyen is the associate dean for graduate career and professional development at Washington University in St. Louis and PI of grants funded to develop this course. She previously served as program director at UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development. She is passionate about creating curriculum and resources to help PhDs explore careers, gain skills, and realize professional goals.

Photo of Dr. Deborah Dauber

Deborah Dauber

Deborah Dauber is a public health professional with a Ph.D. in life sciences and an MPH in health policy and management. In her 15 years of experience in pharmaceutical and biotechnology market analysis and strategy, she has built expertise in diverse therapeutic areas including oncology, infectious disease, autoimmune disease and orphan indications.

Course Staff

Photo of Shannon Behrman

Shannon Behrman

Shannon is the Associate Director for Scientific Training and Education at iBiology. She co-produces, along with Alexandra Schnoes, a series of online courses for life scientists about career and professional development. In 2015 and 2016, she organized the iBiology Young Scientist Seminar competition and workshop in collaboration with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

Photo of Alexandra Schnoes

Alexandra Schnoes

Alexandra is the Associate Director of Career and Professional Development at iBiology. She co-produces, along with Shannon Behrman, a series of online courses for life scientists about career and professional development. She is passionate about biomedical workforce issues and is a collaborator on several research programs that investigate the efficacy of different career and professional development interventions for scientist trainees.

Photo of Eric Kornblum

Eric Kornblum

Eric Kornblum is the Video Guru for iBiology, and handles videography, video editing, compression, media management, and archive. He was previously the Senior Video Specialist at Electronic Arts, and has over 20 years of experience in the field.

Photo of Linet Mera

Linet Mera

Linet Mera is a freelance PhD consultant and co-leader of the Unconscious Bias Project non-profit. Her international background, scientific training, and passion for community building drive her contributions to tech, biotech, science outreach, and professional development.

Photo of Kevin Hartman

Kevin Hartman

Kevin is a PhD Candidate in Bioinformatics at the University of California, San Francisco. His passion for applying science to solve impactful problems has directed his work in domains from renewable chemicals to human disease. He engages in outreach to help others explore and develop skills for scientific careers.

Photo of Daniel McQuillen

Daniel McQuillen

Daniel is an independent software developer, specializing in e-learning and simulation applications. He is helping the iBiology Courses team develop their e-Learning site and infrastructure.

Photo of Noah Green

Noah Green

Noah was traditionally trained in neuroscience but discovered a passion for combining neurological, cognitive psychological, and educational concepts and techniques to create evidence-based teaching techniques at the undergraduate and adult learning levels. Therefore, he has dedicated himself to the development, dissemination, and implementation of evidence-based teaching strategies in the online learning arena.


Bill Lindstaedt, Michael Penn, Mark Ansel, Patti Meyer, Natalie Lundsteen, Kayla Jackson, Thomas Magaldi, Stephanie Eberle, Laura Stark, Brad Grueter, Benjamin Miller, Calli Merkel, James Olzmann, Yaisa Andrews-Zwilling, Lazar Dimitrov, Carlos Solorzano, Sharon Lee, Eric Vieira, Faith Kreitzer, Peter Mui, Kelly Albus, and especially all the Strategy4Scientists podcast interviewees.

This course was supported by: (1) Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Guidance for Trainees grant to UC San Francisco Office of Career and Professional Development, (2) National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health T32 administrative supplement grant to the Biomedical Sciences graduate program, (3) NIGMS grant under award 5R25GM116704 to iBiology.

Logo for Burroughs Wellcome Fund   UCSF Logo for Career and Professional Development


I was able to use the workshop to learn effective communication both scientifically and socially.

- Sr. Research Associate

Understanding stakeholders in the academic environment helped me better think about the research environment

- Graduate student

I began thinking more strategically about the kinds of postdoc research I might want to do to get to do clinical research at some point.

- Graduate student

It helped solidify my desire to move into the business of science.

- Graduate student

Sign Up Sign In
To enroll in this class, you first need to sign up to iBiology Courses as a student (or sign in if you're already a student).