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Students go on home-excursion to the Bio Science Park

Since 2015, the Betabanenmarkt Foundation (BBM) has been organising the Bio Science Park Excursion yearly to introduce students to the world of start-ups and tech companies located around the corner from the Faculty of Science. This year a visit to the Bio Science Park was not possible, so BBM brought the Bio Science Park to the students' homes.

Record number of participants

That students are actively thinking about their professional future during this pandemic is evident from the large number of students who signed up for the digital edition of the Bio Science Park Excursion on 27 November. Within a few hours the event was sold out and only viewer tickets could be distributed. BBM board member Bio Science Park Stan Bongers: 'The maximum number of registrations was met within 4 hours. This gave 120 students a spot. Then we chose to expand, because that is a very easy thing to do online. Ultimately, 260 students came to the virtual excursion! '

Learning about start-ups: 'nobody knows what they are doing'

Bio Science Park Leiden is a breeding ground for start-ups. During the digital excursion, three alumni gave a presentation about their young company. Not only did they go into the technical aspects of their innovative products - all three in the field of cancer treatment innovation - they also gave the students an insight into what it is like to start a company. 'You CAN do everything yourself,' says Jacob Boon, data scientist at Landscape, 'but you MUST also do everything yourself.' The challenges of setting up your own company are, according to him, quite daunting, but on the other hand, you are changing the world your way. Hans Peter Mulder (Biology, 2009), co-founder of Idris Oncology, reassured the students: `When developing a new technology, nobody knows what they are doing, including experts.' With this he wanted to emphasise that students and recent graduates shouldn't be deterred from starting their own start-up.

Jabon Boon of data science company Landscape gave the students a sense of what it is like to start their own business.

Looking for an internship in the networking carousel

In between all the presentations, there was opportunity to network. The network carousel randomly connected participants to another networker present, until the connection was automatically disconnected after 5 minutes. 'Until now, I have only met fellow students,' says master student Sam Davidse during such a networking conversation. 'I am looking for a second internship, but it is difficult now.' Davidse wants to do a PhD after his master's in Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences, but in order to get his desired PhD position, he will have to do a final research internship in time. 'There are few internships to be found due to the corona crisis,' explains Davidse. He hopes to find one by networking at events like these.

Digital company tour

After the start-up presentations, there were two rounds in which students could choose from six companies to attend a presentation and to ask questions. BSPE newcomer Janssen was very popular with the visitors. During the presentation, the students, of course, got an update about the company's progress with their corona vaccine, but plenty of attention was also paid to what it is like to work at such a large international company. Because the idea of the excursion is to literally give students a peek into the companies at the Bio Science Park, most companies had made a digital video or photo tour. In this way, the students could still get an impression of what the buildings they cycled past every day before the corona crisis looked like on the inside.

Alumnus Chemistry Bastiaan Kluft showed the students what his company Seranovo looks like on the inside.

On to the Leiden Science Career Event on 10 March 2021

After this successful event, the BBM board is now fully focused on organising a digital version of their much larger annual event: the  Leiden Science Career Event. Bongers: 'Fortunately, the companies participating in the excursion were quite enthusiastic about how we organised it. Many of them had already had negative experiences with online events. So this was, partly due to the unexpected higher turnout, beyond expectations for some. Because of this I hope that they will also be enthusiastic about our big event. Moreover, this success naturally also gives us extra drive to get everything ready for the  Leiden Science Career Event on 10 March.'

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