From networking to a job: Q&A with Michael Abrahamson, PharmD

Young people shaking hands at a student-industry networking event
Learn about the annual Student Industry Networking Event at the BIO5 Institute and how it helped a University of Arizona alumni and registered pharmacist find a local biotechnology job.


Many of us have heard how to find a job: ‘Go network.’ But what does that mean and look like? 

Since 2009, the annual Student Industry Networking Event (SINE) at the BIO5 Institute has connected University of Arizona students with representatives from the Arizona bioscience, biomedical and biotechnology industries. As part of its trifold mission, BIO5 is deeply invested in students, equipping them with the skills and real-world experience, be it through events or hiring student staff throughout the institute. 

Sponsored by BIO5 and the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona (BIOSA), SINE strives to provide a learning opportunity to prepare trainees for future jobs. Even during the pandemic, the event pivoted to a successful online format in both 2021 and 2022 to continue to facilitate those critical connections between students and prospective employers. 

In recent years, the event has included both virtual and in-person opportunities. From career coaching by the UArizona Student Engagement & Career Development (SECD) Center and insights on hiring trends from leading life sciences and biomedical industry representatives to an in-person networking event with dozens of biosciences organizations. 

“Students are so immersed in their course work that they often miss out on reflecting about what they might do once they graduate,” said Uwe Hilgert, director of industry relations, STEM training and workforce development at the BIO5 Insitute. “Our Student Industry Networking Event is instrumental in providing University of Arizona students opportunities to connect with current employees in the biomedical industry, learn from the way their careers unfolded, and become part of a network that may help them in their own career development.” 

Over 1900 trainees have engaged in SINE with almost 400 representatives across industry, government, community, and academic organizations in the last 16 years of the event.  

BIO5 caught up with Michael Abrahamson, UArizona alumni and director of operations at Reglagene, to learn how SINE helped him in his career.

Michael Abrahamson

Q&A with Michael Abrahamson, PharmD 

Give us your elevator pitch for your career. 

I am a registered pharmacist with a passion for advancing oncology assets from bench-to-bedside, utilizing my clinical expertise and business acumen. With over 5 years of experience in start-up environments, I have developed a strong affinity for the operational and business facets of the life sciences sector. My goal is to continue bridging the gap between research and patient care, driving innovation, and improving outcomes for cancer patients. 


What was your University of Arizona journey? 

I earned a Bachelor of Science in Physiology during my undergraduate studies. After graduation, I enrolled in pharmacy school at the University of Arizona, where I was part of the graduating class of 2020.  

After my first semester of pharmacy school, I gained research experience in Heidi Mansour's laboratory for two and half years. Additionally, I completed internships at the Medication Management Center, focusing on Medication Therapy Management, and at the Arizona Poison Control Center, where I took inbound calls for drug exposures and information. In my final year of pharmacy school, I pursued additional coursework at the James E. Rogers College of Law, earning a certificate in Regulatory Science. 


How did the Student Industry Networking Event (SINE) at the BIO5 Institute help you find a role in industry? 

SINE was an invaluable experience during my fourth year as a PharmD student. It provided me with a unique opportunity to interact with numerous companies in the life sciences sector right here in Tucson. I am incredibly grateful to SINE, as it played a pivotal role in securing my current job.  

Four years ago, I attended SINE with the intention of networking and exploring potential job opportunities. It was there that I had the pleasure of meeting Marie Wesselhoft, the CEO of a local diagnostics company and BIO5 Institute external advisory board member. A few weeks later, she introduced me to Richard Austin, the CEO of Reglagene. After several Zoom call interviews, Richard offered me a full-time position on the day I graduated from pharmacy school. I have now been with the company for four years. 


From an industry perspective, what is the impact of student networking events? Any words of advice for students looking for a job in industry? 

Networking events are essential for career growth. While it may sound cliché, the adage "it's not what you know, it's who you know" has proven true for me.   

Recognizing the importance of building connections in the life sciences sector, I actively sought out opportunities like SINE to expand my network, as I personally did not have many connections in the industry. I encourage others to do the same and attend as many networking events as possible. You never know who will introduce you to your future employer!