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Meet Lee and May from Biochemical Engineering who dream of one day establishing their own pharmaceutical company

May Naveh and Lee Goldfryd both began their careers in pre-medical studies, looking for the applied research aspect. They found it in a BSc degree at the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Technion in the Biochemical Engineering track. In the future, they hope to open their own pharmaceutical company.

March 2022

Lee Goldfryd and May Naveh are senior students at the Department of Chemical Engineering in the Biochemical Engineering track. Both began pre-medical studies at Ariel University, and decided to continue studying Biochemical Engineering at the Technion. Today, in the fourth year of their studies, they are engaged in research on nanoparticles for the development of targeted drugs in the research group of Dr. Assaf Zinger. As May says: “At the beginning of my career I was interested in medicine due to my military background in the field. I was always attracted to biology and wanted to understand how I could make an impact in this world. I was offered a scholarship at Ariel University, and started pre-med studies. During the first year I realized that I want to explore and find new ways and technologies to improve our lives, whether it be curing diseases or improving the quality of life. After realizing that medical studies are less about research and development, I looked for a profession that would lead me into that field from the point of view I was interested at. I was exploring the possibility of studying chemistry, biochemistry or biochemical engineering.” Lee was accompanied by a similar urge to focus on developments and innovation in the medical field. “For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in medicine. After the army I did not know which field to turn into and finally decided to start a degree in pre-med at Ariel. After the first year I understood that I would fit better in an academic track that would fulfill my aspirations in research. I had an urge to see ‘behind the scenes’ for medicine, so to speak, both in treating diseases as well as in the drug development process itself. Among the tracks I examined were chemistry, biochemistry and Chemical or Biochemical Engineering. After hearing about Biochemistry Engineering, I understood that this track could give me the tools needed to fulfill my professional aspirations.”

When they individually realized that they were both interested in recalculating their route to explore and gain research tools to lead change in the field that interested them, Lee and May examined the options that exist at a number of universities. According to them, after visiting the Technion and the Department of Chemical Engineering, “we quickly realized that this is where we would like to study.” The atmosphere at the Department and the practical aspects in Biochemical Engineering studies attracted them.

Could you share your experiences so far from this degree?

“The Chemical Engineering Department is relatively small, friendly, and homely, especially given a relatively intimate Biochemical Engineering track. We are a group of about 20 students mostly with high ambitions and common interests. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of such a group. Technion’s social life is great, although it might not look that way from the outside, and our evenings with friends are a lot of fun. The studies are relatively intensive, there is a lot of workload with many of assignments. Some of the fields taught are centered around Chemical Engineering, while others pure biology. Professionally, we found ourselves already in our first year at the Technion actively involved with research in laboratories in various fields. “

In their second year they have already started working in the field, Lee worked in Dr. Alon Greenberg Dana’s and May turned to industry to work at Tower Semiconductor. In the third year, they both joined a biochemical research laboratory in the Department under the supervision of Dr. Assaf Zinger.

Which experience in particular will you remember from your BSc days?

Lee says: “The first semester at the Technion was a complete ‘shock’ for me. Moving from another place of study and from a non-engineering field is difficult. Although I was already familiar with some of the courses, I found myself having a hard time with math and physics courses that are taught at a very high level. In addition to the academic difficulty, I also moved away from my parents’ house for the first time, away from the whole family and friends who are a great support for me. But despite the difficulty in the first semester, I met my life partner at the Department in the first recitation of the course ‘Introduction to Chemical and Biochemical Engineering’, and since then we have been working towards the BSc degree together.”

May says: “The first year at the Technion was the most difficult for me. The transition and adaptation to the new environment was challenging. I will not forget that during this year I tackled the advanced Calculus course and could not understand much. My motivation and excitement came from the classes in topics that interested me, for example the biochemistry and enzymology course I took that year which was taught by Prof. Michael Glickman from the Department of Biology. In each lecture I was amazed at how much this field was burning in my bones, so to speak, and I could not stop thinking about what I had learned and realized I wanted more. After several lessons I approached Prof. Glickman and shared with him my interest in the field. He saw the ‘fire in my eyes’ and after a short time I found myself in his fascinating research group, which was a professional home for me for about a year and a half.”

What would you recommend for candidates interested in a BSc in chemistry/engineering/biology?

“For anyone who is passionate about chemistry and biology, and is looking for engineering practice, we would recommend applying for the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Technion, which really combines science with practical applications. The Department is relatively small, family-like, the lecturers know their students personally and strive to see them succeeding. In addition, we believe that a degree at the Department gives many tools for dealing with a variety of fields that ultimately do not limit one to work in one field alone. Further, the possibilities for pursuing graduate level studies and research are endless with this background. The job opportunities at the end of the first degree are very diverse and attractive.”

So, what are your plans for the near term? And for the slightly longer term?

May replies: “I really like what I do, both in industry (Tower) and in research at the Technion. I like to study, research, and pursue ideas that come to my mind before I go to sleep. I have no doubt that I will start graduate school in a research lab, both because of my interest in the field and because I aspire to become a leader in pharma research, and to achieve that I must to become an even better professional.”

Lee replies: “If I was asked six months ago I would have said I would be happy to gain more experience in industry before I go on to grad school. In the last year, however, I was able to get a job in the industry and experience the ‘real’ world outside. I have no doubt that I will continue directly to an MSc degree and hopefully also my doctorate in order to continue and specialize.”

Lee and May add that in the distant future they hope to work together, as they have started their journey together, and even start their own company for pharma-solutions, do great things with an impact in the field, and continue to represent the Department.

Anything else you would like to share?

“It is very difficult and confusing for young people like us to choose which field to pursue in their professional lives as adults. We think that Chemical Engineering is a broad field from which one can reach lots of different work environments, each fascinating in its own way. During the BSc, we both dealt with and specialized in a variety fields with the help of the tools we acquired at the Department. We’re happy to warmly recommend this track.”