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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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MBA student mixes business with science

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David Kideckel rests after finishing the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. When he’s not busy working or going to school for his MBA, Kideckel enjoys running and spending time with his family.

When David Kideckel began his doctorate in neuroimaging, the study of images of the brain, he realized that there were more ways to approach science than he once thought.

Kideckel wanted to learn about the business side of science. Now, with his PhD in hand, he’s carving a path in an exciting, emerging field by combining his science expertise with his business know-how.

The 32-year-old scientist won a prestigious Science to Business Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), which has sent him back to school for a master of business administration in health-care management and consulting at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

He is completing the program part-time while maintaining a full-time job at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and caring for his 3-1/2-year-old daughter, Ora, with his wife, Sari.

“It’s certainly an exercise in time management,” Kideckel said with a laugh. But, despite his busy schedule, he finds time to run marathons as a hobby and to spend quality time with his family.

Making the time to combine his passions for science and business has been an important part of Kideckel’s life since he began his doctorate.

Kideckel, who is originally from Winnipeg, quickly realized that there were many opportunities for people willing to acquire knowledge and skills in science and business, but that students weren’t eager to crossover academic disciplines.

“It’s just that, traditionally, in academia, so many different departments are in their own silos,” he said, explaining that the traditional university setting can make it difficult for students to explore interests in different subjects simultaneously.

Kideckel admitted that when he first became interested in pursuing business he was met with some resistance from other people in his field. “To push the more business side of things in science was a challenge,” he said.

Not only, he explained, did many people in the sciences prefer to stick to their own discipline, but most of those who did have other interests didn’t want to go through the struggle of finding a way to study something completely new.

“A lot of students are just too comfortable with the status quo,” Kideckel said.

But the status quo didn’t cut it for him.

Where many students might have stuck to one field in order to simplify their studies, Kideckel was adamant about adding business skills to his life-science expertise, and he began to chase every possibility that would let him do so.

“I guess I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.

To build his leadership and business abilities, Kideckel served on the Institute of Medical Science Students’ Association (IMSSA) council for three years and was elected its president during the last year of his doctoral studies at U of T.

He co-founded and served as vice-president of U of T’s Graduate Management Consulting Association, and he also interned on the business development end for two biotech start-ups, one of which was run out of Canadian innovation hothouse MaRS.

Kideckel’s keen interest and hard work also led him to be selected as one of three Canadians to take part in a Novartis International Biotechnology Leadership event in Cambridge, Mass., in 2009. Novartis, based in Switzerland, is one of the biggest multinational pharmaceutical companies in the world.

With his experience in the business end of the scientific world, Kideckel decided to apply for the CIHR Science to Business scholarship, designed for people who have their doctorate in the sciences, and he’s now in the first year of his MBA.

“It’s been really great,” Kideckel said of his experience so far in the program. He attends classes two mornings per week from 7 to 9 a.m. before heading to work.

The additional business skills he is acquiring at school, he said, help him to be even more effective in his work environment, and to make the most of his science background. “I’m able to understand and apply the science in ways that people without the science background wouldn’t necessarily be able to,” he said.

Kideckel is urging other people who have studied science to follow in his footsteps, both for the potential to make major contributions to people’s lives and health through science and for the chance to help develop an emerging field.

 “It’s an untapped area with tons of potential,” he said, explaining that people are still catching on to this new field with its many career opportunities.

The combined skill set allows people to work in areas like intellectual property, patent law, research, innovation and the commercialization of scientific breakthroughs.

“There’s a huge demand for this,” Kideckel said, adding that these careers continue to be vital and the opportunities for them are available, even in a tough economic climate.

Kideckel is determined to make it easier for students to prepare for this career path. During his time as president of the IMMSA, he began working toward his goal of creating a joint PhD-MBA program. His hard work and campaigning has paid off, as U of T is planning to implement the unique joint program in the coming years.

For young people thinking about going the science-to-business route, Kideckel has some important words of advice.

“Network as much as you can to really hear first hand from people what their experiences were,” he said, adding that it is also important to get involved in campus organizations and committees related to your interests.

For Kideckel, nothing beats the hands-on experience of getting involved and pursuing your goals.

“I believe in doing something and not just reading about it.”

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