John Robinson, PhD

There is a general agreement within the organization that the hardest role in a project is that of a Project Manager (PM). They not only bring out the best in our consultants but also deliver successfully on fronts that engage our clients to return for more engagements. This year, John Robinson accomplished that and more!

In his time in BALSA, he has led four projects as a PM including engagements with Mallinckrodt and Beiersdorf. We are extremely grateful for his hardwork and proud to acknowledge him as our Project Manager of the Year 2018. 


Please briefly describe your background and your current work.
I got my start in BALSA while working on a PhD in biochemistry here at Washington University in the laboratory of Dr. Steve Beverley. After defending my thesis, I now work as a post-doc in the laboratory of Dr. Jeff Henderson in the Division of Infectious Diseases. There, I juggle multiple projects and collaborations leveraging the versatility of mass spectrometry to answer various diverse questions. My main projects use mass spectrometry-based metabolomics to explore the biology of disease and hopefully develop fast, sensitive, and non-invasive diagnostics.
What motivated you to join BALSA? 
Originally, I intended graduate school as a springboard to a tenure-track faculty position. Over time, however, I realized that the job description for a research professor was not appealing to me, which led me to seek out alternative career paths. Around the time I started exploring other options, my father-in-law, who is the head of an accounting firm, asked my wife and me to evaluate a biotechnology start-up that hoped to partner with his firm for financial management. I discovered that I enjoyed the challenge of learning about the new technology and helping my father-in-law understand its strengths and weaknesses. He suggested I consider consulting as a career, so I decided to join BALSA and give it a try.

What have you learned so far by working on BALSA projects? 
I think that the most important thing I learned from BALSA is how to encourage a positive environment when working in a team. When I first started working for BALSA, I was struck by how thoughtful and encouraging the project managers and advisors were, and by how they maintained that tone while also maintaining high standards of quality. Since moving up to the manager role myself, I have done my best to replicate that experience for each team I lead.

What did you hope to accomplish by working with BALSA? Were these goals fulfilled? 
As I mentioned above, I originally joined BALSA to explore consulting as a career option. I also sought to develop professional skills that I could use in any career. Working on diverse projects prepared me well for my post-doc position, where I manage four or more projects and collaborations at a time with little to no overlap. Taking on management roles has also been particularly valuable, both in my current position and as I look toward my future career. I find that the skills needed to help first-time consultants are also useful when training new members of the Henderson lab.

What do you envision your career to be in 3-5 years and how do you think your BALSA experience will help you with your goal?
I envision myself integrated somewhere in the pipeline between basic research and the business world, helping translate new discoveries into tangible benefits for society. I am currently exploring various options within that space, including technology transfer and scientific consulting. Beyond direct exposure to the commercialization process, BALSA also provided me with opportunities to experience the business world and its modes of thinking about problems. Most importantly, I hope to bring a piece of the supportive BALSA culture with me wherever I go.