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Business Concepts for Life Scientists

About This Course

The purpose of the Business Concepts for Biomedical 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.

The learning objectives for this course include:

  • Understand key terms used in the business and financial management of scientific enterprises
  • Develop increased confidence in using business terminology during interviews or networking events
  • Identify knowledge areas within business for further study

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

Dr. Thi Nguyen

Dr. 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

Dr. Deborah Dauber

Dr. 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.

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.

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Daniel McQuillen

Daniel is an independent software developer, specializing in e-learning and simulation applications. He is helping the iBiology Courses team develop this e-learning site using Open EdX open source software.

Course Advisory Team

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.


Natalie Lundsteen, Kayla Jackson, Thomas Magaldi, Stephanie Eberle, Laura Stark, Linet Mera, Yaisa Andrews-Zwilling, Peter Mui, Kelly Albus, and 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

Frequently Asked Questions

What web browser should I use?

The Open edX platform works best with current versions of Chrome, Firefox or Safari, or with Internet Explorer version 9 and above. At the moment we do not support mobile browsers.

See our list of supported browsers for the most up-to-date information.

What do I get at the end?

When you complete the course, you will receive a printable certificate from iBiology Courses to commemorate your participation in the course.

  1. Course Number

  2. Course Starts

    April 2, 2018 12:00 ET
  3. Estimated Effort (hours/week)