Becky Byler - New Delhi, India
Career goal: Humanitarian engineer
Internship outline: Becky identified and evaluated public health nanotechnologies and biotechnologies developed by various organizations across Asia and the Pacific while interning at the United Nations Asia and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (UN APCTT) in New Delhi, India. Through national and international site visits to biotech companies and research institutes in India and surrounding Asia-Pacific countries and interviews with top Indian government officials and CEOs, Becky analyzed international research collaboration and business commercialization efforts. This work will better inform national biotechnology policies and enhance regional biotechnology innovation strategies for improved health and future pursuit of the new UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). In particular, she researched the conceptual framework of open innovation, analyzed biotechnology business models for neglected disease R&D, investigated the current burden of neglected diseases in the Asia-Pacific region and examined the socioeconomic and political perspectives that modulate new technology innovation and development.
Value of experience: As a biomedical engineer who normally spends all of my time in a research lab, I selected UN APCTT to challenge myself and gain experience in a previously unexplored (by me) sector of humanitarian technology development. Although initially nervous about tackling an area so far outside of my comfort zone, I couldn't be more pleased with my time at UN APCTT: coming to the office never truly felt like “work” as each day I learned something new, my fellow interns became like a second family and I was given so many different opportunities to develop professionally, from meeting top UN officials, Indian technology ministers and biotech CEOs to presenting at international nanotechnology conferences on my research. Perhaps my biggest takeaway was learning how my interdisciplinary engineering and public health academic and professional experiences can fit within a greater global context, as well as gaining an understanding of the non-research opportunities I can pursue within public health biotechnology development.
Best moment/experience: During one of my first visits to an Indian biotech firm, I suddenly found myself in a conference room with about 30 employees and directors expectantly looking at me to start talking. Armed with only a blue dry erase marker and a blank white board behind me, I quickly launched into a 45 minute “chalk talk” on neglected diseases, the immunological response to parasitic infections, open innovation strategies and the mission/role of UN APCTT. I love teaching but, as someone who usually spends significant time preparing lessons prior to lecturing, it was an amazing experience to see myself successfully execute a seminar and Q&A session extemporaneously to such a diverse, distinguished audience.
Funding sources: Coca Cola World Fund at Yale and InnovateHealth Yale