Student Profiles

Tess Michaels, LSM '15

Hometown: 
Plano, Texas

What makes the LSM community unique?

I chose Penn specifically for all that the LSM community offers. The LSM Program has such a great leadership team, both internally with staff and faculty and externally with a fantastic Board of Advisors coming from all leadership realms of healthcare ranging from Investment Banking to Healthcare Consulting to R&D management in Pharma/Biotech. LSM also helps facilitate summer internships that are specifically tailored to our strengths in the healthcare field with both strong science and business spins. We also get the privilege of meeting amazing speakers/leaders of the community. Dr. Vagelos is such an inspiration. The LSM Program is such a cohesive group who share their interests and aspirations and really guide each other to the most exciting career paths that leverage the learning at Penn.

What research have you done at Penn or otherwise?

I came to Penn with a strong research background from high school. I actually had a home-lab where I did research on aging and Alzheimer's for years. I was fortunate to present my research at Intel ISEF, Siemens, and travel to Korea and Italy to meet similarly-minded student researchers. At Penn I published my research in Synapse, the Penn undergraduate research journal pioneered by LSMers. During sophomore year I did translational neuroscience research on schizophrenia, and then delved into a year-long research journey throughout junior year focused on HIV-associated dementia. I also did independent research studies with the legal studies, management, and finance departments in Wharton focused on social entrepreneurship, hybrid organizations, and corporate fiscal strategy dynamics. Having a mix of science research experience working in labs, reading scientific papers, and writing papers to be submitted to journals to be published, while also doing qualitative research doing case studies and multiple interviews with successful corporate and entrepreneurial leaders provided a great platform to understand the differences among the paradigms.

What are your favorite experiences at Penn so far?

I have enjoyed serving as a leader in the Penn Class Board, Biotech Society, and Wharton Finance Club, but the most exciting thing happened as a culmination of my experiences. Driven by my volunteering experience, I founded Soceana during my sophomore summer. It is a tech-platform for corporate volunteerism; the team has grown quickly and we gained traction fast with strong support and encouragement from LSM and the Penn community. Soceana has traction with multiple multinational companies, partnerships with three global tech companies, and a patent pending on a new, disruptive social currency. We also won the NY Challenge Cup competition and were featured in publications like Business Insiders and Technical.ly. I am also writing a few articles for Washington Post regarding social entrepreneurship. All of this became possible because of the support and resources Penn provided for me. Nearly all of my team members and advisors are from Penn. Soceana continues to enrich my Penn experience, and expand my horizons and networks.

Plans after LSM:

Dr. Vagelos recognized that entrepreneurs must build, early in their lives, foundations in both science and business - not only a deep understanding of life sciences, but also an aptitude for product development, strategic marketing, organizational leadership and policy advocacy. These are the skills that the LSM program helps students learn and cultivate. Although specialization is key for success in a biotechnology or pharmaceutical company, having a holistic understanding of the discovery and marketing process leads to enduring success. I aspire to take the strong foundation I have gained through my research and combine it with my leadership skills to become an intellectually vital scientist, a smart humanitarian and a successful leader. I plan to leverage the experiences I've gained my junior summer doing healthcare investment banking as well as the skills I'll learn doing healthcare consulting in the future to a successful career in a global healthcare company. LSM has helped me realize the value of generating social good in healthcare and beyond.

Other interesting things about you?

I traveled around pitching Soceana at various conferences and competitions. One of those competitions was atop a ski mountain in Hunter, NY. I had to pitch my startup to investors during the three-minute lift ride. Remembering to focus on Soceana's platform and that of the ski lift as I saw the insanely high mountain peaks as a first time skier was definitely one of my more challenging experiences. Regardless, made for some great laughs after the race!