Iraj Hosseini, PhD

Current job title:  Scientist
Institution:  Genentech
Degree, year of completion:  PhD in BME, 2015


Why did you choose to attend Johns Hopkins? What attracted you to your graduate degree program?

In grad school as I was pursuing my M.Sc. in electrical engineering, I started to explore more multi-disciplinary engineering fields and eventually decided to switch to biomedical engineering. Although at the time I had very limited background in Biology and was still figuring out what I wanted to do, I got the impression that Hopkins provided a depth and breadth of research opportunities that I could not find in other places. I think faculty members and the diverse research program attracted me the most. Outside of school, I started to grow fond of Baltimore as well.


Can you share any special memories from your time at JHU (in the classroom, lab, etc.)?

Coming from an engineering background, I was not ready to sit in long life science classes, memorize everything and take an exam after a week of intense studying. I was used to memorizing a few equations in engineering courses and taking an exam after a semester-long course. That was a huge shock at the beginning to take courses with medical students, but passing my first-ever life science course with a near-perfect score felt like an accomplishment and is a good memory from early days at Hopkins.


How did you get interested in your current professional field? What interests or circumstance drew you to it?

I did an internship during my PhD. At the time, I was debating between academia and industry. I had my list of pros and cons for each, but could not really assign realistic weights and make a decision on what to do after my PhD. The internship helped me see the other side and enabled me to compare the two environments, and understand similarities and differences. To me, the drug development experience in industry was quite exciting and that made me realize what I would like to do post-PhD.


Please describe some of your career highlights.

Impacting a clinical decision to help patients or seeing a molecule you have helped develop advance through the portfolio is a highlight. The ultimate thing would be to see a good molecule get approved to help patients; that by itself is a great moment even if you have not directly worked on that molecule.


What are your most notable/interesting professional (and/or personal) accomplishments?

During my PhD, Shiva (a good friend of mine and another BME graduate student) and I had the opportunity to apply for a PhD innovation initiative proposal, which was funded by the JHU Office of Provost and led to creation of BME EDGE with the goal of providing professional training and helping students explore academic and non-academic job opportunities. Co-chairing that organization in the first year was an eye-opening and humbling experience. For professional accomplishments in industry, I guess having the opportunity to work on new targets, shaping the development of new molecules and being in positions of greater responsibility are a few examples.

And of course, surviving parenthood for 17 months is a personal accomplishment on a different scale.


Do you have any advice to offer aspiring engineers?

Graduate school can only teach you so much. If you would like to continue your professional path in pharma, there is a lot more to be learned when you transition to your new job, particularly if you get to work on multi-year long multi-disciplinary projects. Optimize your learning, connect with people, build your network, and figure out what type of research/work would give you the most satisfaction. Once you have identified your desired destination, any progress in that direction is a positive outcome regardless of your pace. And hopefully, you will reach your goal eventually.


Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?

I have changed my field of research 3-4 times in the past 12 years and have a pretty good feeling I will do it again.


JHU - Institute for Computational Medicine