IMNIS Orientation at Monash University – preparing mentees for IMNIS

Monash University’s IMNIS coordinator, Associate Professor Priscilla Johanesen, shares how she prepares IMNIS mentees at her organisation for their IMNIS program through an orientation session. Priscilla says “This way students know what is expected of them and ensures they get the most out of their industry mentoring experience”. The IMNIS team works closely with the designated IMNIS coordinator at every member University to ensure mentees are fully prepared and strongly supported throughout their program. All IMNIS mentors and mentees are provided formal Guidelines by IMNIS upon enrolling in the initiative. The University Orientation strongly complements this introduction to IMNIS and we encourage all member Universities to consider implementing this approach.


Monash University was one of the partner institutes involved in the 2015-2016 IMNIS pilot and from this initial program, as with any pilot, I learnt a lot! On reviewing the pilot and thinking about what did and didn’t work, I realised I had made lots of assumptions about student preparedness, forgetting that for many of the students chosen as mentees this is the first time that they would be attending professional networking events and interacting with high level industry leaders. These events and meetings can be a little daunting for anyone at first, but perhaps more so for graduate students. To provide the mentees with additional support, for the 2017-2018 program, I incorporated a short, 20 to 30 minute orientation session as part of the program. This took place after mentee and mentor pairing and prior to the launch event.

The Orientation session was designed, firstly to give an overview of the IMNIS program, talk to the mentees about the opportunity they had been given and allow mentees to ask any questions. In addition to this I talked to them about professionalism and the expectations of Monash University. For this blog I’ve put together the essential points covered, written as a guide to mentees.

Associate Professor Priscilla Johanesen with the Monash University IMNIS mentees enrolled in Victoria’s 2017 MedTech-Pharma program with the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) [Image: A Bizzarri]
IMNIS Orientation at Monash University: a guide for IMNIS mentees
1. You are a representative of the University

Mentees have been selected and sponsored by Monash University to take part in the program. As a mentee and PhD student from Monash University you are representing the University and need to conduct yourself in a professional manner when meeting with your mentor or attending networking events.

2. Time with your mentor is valuable

All of the IMNIS mentors are high level industry leaders and extremely busy people who are volunteering their time to mentor you. As such you need to be respectful of your mentor and their time. Meeting and developing a connection with your mentor is important and mentor-mentee meetings are supposed to be informal but still professional. It is important that you reply to correspondence with your mentor in a timely manner and that you are punctual to meetings or cancel with plenty of notice if you are unable to make a meeting.
Importantly, before your first meeting it is a good idea to do a bit of research on your mentor and know a bit about them. As much as you can, prepare in advance for your meetings, with any questions or topics that you wish to discuss – what is it that you want to find out about industry, what are your career goals? Go to your meeting armed with a list of questions – what do you want to achieve from this meeting? This will allow you to maximise the time that you will have with your mentor.

3. First impressions count

Many years ago, when I was a PhD student heading off to my first post-doc one of my mentors said to me – “When you go to your postdoc you need to rethink the tracksuit pants.” Up until that time I had been oblivious to the work dress code given I was in a laboratory, wearing a lab coat for most of the day. Remember you only get one chance to make a first impression, so while active wear and casual attire is acceptable for day-to-day while at University, especially for wet-laboratory research, it doesn’t really work in a professional setting, such as meetings with industry mentors or networking events. You need to think about the image you are projecting and the impression you are making. When thinking about what to wear think about what you would wear to a job interview and dress appropriately.

4. What if things don’t work out?

IMNIS is a structured mentoring program that matches mentors and mentees based on interest areas and career goals of mentees, and the mentor’s professional experience. Although uncommon, sometimes mentee and mentor relationships don’t necessarily work out. If for any reason a mentee think it’s not working or if they have any concerns, I encourage them to contact me as the coordinator of the program at Monash University so we can talk through any issues or concerns. They can also contact their IMNIS Program Coordinator on the IMNIS team and this detail is provided in the Guidelines they receive at the start of their program.

5. Enjoy the Experience!

Monash University is a strong supporter of the IMNIS program and the benefits it can bring to our PhD students. The IMNIS program offers PhD students a unique opportunity to gain insight into industry, build professional skills and opens up networks to students that they would not otherwise have access to. One of the most important things for mentees to remember is to make the most out of the opportunity and enjoy the experience.


About the author:

Associate Professor Priscilla Johanesen is the Director of the Biomedicine Graduate Program for the Monash Biomedical Discovery Institute and Head of Teaching and Learning for the Department of Microbiology at Monash University. Priscilla completed her PhD at Monash University before heading to the USA to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She has 20 years’ experience in teaching microbiology and molecular biology in various modalities to undergraduate and graduate students across the disciplines of science, biomedical science and medicine in both Australia and the USA. As an educator, Priscilla believes that her role is to facilitate the learning process and also to be a mentor to students both inside and outside of the classroom. In recognition of her dedication to teaching, in 2014 Priscilla was awarded the David White Excellence in Teaching Award by the Australian Society for Microbiology and in 2017 became a Fellow of the Monash Education Academy. In addition to undergraduate teaching Priscilla is a strong supporter of career development for graduate research students and from 2013-2016 led the introduction of professional development training into the doctoral program in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University. In late 2016, she was appointed as the Director of the Biomedicine Graduate Program for the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, where she currently leads the doctoral program for the institutes; close to 250 PhD students.


The Art of Negotiation

I am often asked to discuss negotiation tips and traps that I have learned during my journey from post-doctoral scientist to Vice President Corporate Strategy and Business Development at Certara. Is it really 30 years since I finished my PhD?

Negotiation is analogous to a game of chess, where experts plan several moves ahead and adapt their strategy based on their opponent’s moves. Before I elucidate some of the hallmarks of an effective negotiator, I was asked to opine on whether there are any special nuances that women negotiators should consider. While I have a clear view on this matter, I also sought the opinion of two distinguished female negotiators – Dr Nina Wester, Commercial Director at Acrux Limited and Dr Sue MacLeman, CEO of MTPConnect. This post integrates my views with theirs.

It is important to remember that deals are negotiated by people not companies. You learn through experience to recognize different negotiation styles and adapt yours accordingly. There are three basic types of negotiator:

  1. Competitive Negotiator
  2. Conciliatory Negotiator
  3. Lateral-thinking Negotiator

In the Competitive Negotiator’s world there is a winner and a loser in every negotiation. Those negotiators are often seen as aggressive, opinionated, and self-serving. Negotiating with them can be tedious and often feels pugilistic. Curiously, they often negotiate less favourable terms for themselves due to their myopic deal strategy. If they are a seller, Competitive Negotiators are more likely to bluff and say that they are also negotiating a deal with another party for the same product. Although in reality, they may not even have a term sheet from another party. Rule one, do not bluff when negotiating a deal. Word will soon get around that you bluff and may not be trustworthy. Respect is hard won and easily lost.

The Conciliatory Negotiator’s guiding principle is that the deal should be reciprocally fair with give and take on both sides. They are highly organized and develop deal theses to guide the negotiation process. They assume that they are building a business relationship that will lead to multiple deals. To this end, they seek to build trust and a long-term relationship with the other negotiator. They are also attuned to cultural differences and adapt their negotiating style accordingly. This is a particularly important skill in Asia and the Middle East, where often the relationship is just as, if not more, important than the actual deal terms. Comments about Conciliatory Negotiators include “they are great people to work with” and “we were able to work through tough issues together.”

The Lateral-thinking Negotiator is an evolved form of the Conciliatory Negotiator and they tend to work on more complex deals. They may use tools such as real-option theory to identify and value alternative product development pathways and build novel payments into product licenses that are triggered when a specific value is realised. They construct complex financial models that reflect the deal’s value from both the buyer’s and seller’s perspective.

Regardless of the negotiating style you have or seek to develop, it is important to be self-aware, honest and confident about your strengths and weaknesses. Have you asked how someone else perceives you as a negotiator? Is it different from your own view? Consider possible weaknesses as career development opportunities rather than negatives. Seek out mentors. Speak to colleagues and take professional development courses. There is help out there, embrace it!

Finally, are there differences between men and women negotiators? Nina, Sue and I agree that men and women are equally effective in the negotiating room. At the end of the day, it comes down to a negotiator’s skill and ability to read their counterpart’s body language and adapt their style according to the negotiation context.

Tips and Traps for Negotiators


You should aim to listen for up to two-thirds of the time during a negotiation. Too many negotiators feel that they need to own the airwaves to secure a better deal. It is important to be a good listener and it is a sign of respect. Silence is also a useful tool; it can result in additional information being revealed by the opposing negotiator who feels the need to fill it!

While you are speaking, watch the lips of the person with whom you are negotiating. I have discovered that quivering lips are a sign that they want to speak or ask a question, but do not want to interrupt you. Use this sign as a cue to hand the conversation over to them.

Body Language

At least 50% of communication is non-verbal. If you are not noticing body language, you are ignoring valuable information that can inform deal tactics. I always try to have at least one other colleague present during a negotiation, as it can be difficult to observe the participants at the same time as concentrate on the matter at hand. Their role is to take minutes and record body language, noting the dynamics of interactions between the opposing deal team. For example, they will watch to determine who is the real decision maker. That will be the person to whom the other side looks when you ask a question. Also watch their eyes, lips and arms for cues. This can give insight into whether the opposing deal team is aligned on its deal strategy.

Deal Thesis

It is important to develop a thesis for every deal regardless of whether you are a buyer or seller. The deal thesis defines the objectives of the deal, the deal team, who has delegated authority to negotiate, the term sheet with acceptable negotiation ranges, walk-away positions, and a process map for due diligence and closing the deal.

Always ask the negotiator whether they have delegated authority to negotiate the deal, what their internal decision-making process is and whose sign-off is required to execute it. Also, beware of scientists from medtech or pharma companies who may be very interested in your technology and ask probing questions, but have no authority to negotiate. You may end up in a perpetual information seeking loop. Don’t provide them with free competitive intelligence!

Negotiating the Deal

Once a term sheet is agreed, and the first draft of the definitive agreement is prepared, I negotiate subsequent agreement drafts through an issues table. The issues table includes the language from the clause to be discussed, the issue or concern, minutes of the discussion between the parties and the agreed resolution of the issue. Issues tables guide lawyers when they draft amendments to the agreement and importantly, provide insight into what each party is trying to achieve with respect to resolving the issue. I also use issues tables to check that all agreed amendments have been included in the next draft of the agreement.

Death by Due Diligence

Imagine you have an agreed term sheet from a major pharma company. The deal offered is subject to due diligence. Are you prepared for the team of 20 plus experts descending on your company? Due diligence is a serious exercise and necessitates preparation to ensure that companies are ready. Assuming that the pharma company is licensing a product in development, due diligence will involve auditing project management systems and processes, lab notebooks, primary research and clinical data, SOPs/protocols, development plans, commercial strategy and intellectual property rights. It will also require interviews with key staff and advisors. From a planning perspective, companies should view due diligence as a separate project which requires its own budget and resourcing. Absence of such planning, companies’ can come across as disorganized and/or elusive, and productivity can be dramatically reduced.


As with all human behaviors, individual negotiation styles are influenced by both genetics and environment.  Successful negotiators are self-aware, organized, and empathetic, and are able to adapt their negotiation style depending on circumstance.  Hopefully some of the observations in this article help you to identify and hone your own negotiation skills.

About the author:

Dr Leigh Farrell has over 20 years’ experience in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry in various roles. He is recognized as a thought leader in international business development and licensing strategy in the area pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Dr Farrell is Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development at Certara USA, Inc.  He advises various Australian Commonwealth Government Departments both on pharmaceutical and biotechnology innovation policy and strategies for the development of medical countermeasures for infectious disease threats.  His past appointments include Vice President of Business Development at Biota Pharmaceuticals, Associate Director GBS Venture Partners, Research Manager Johnson & Johnson Research and CEO of Gene Shears.

Dr Farrell has extensive international networks including pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medtech companies, together with venture capital / investment banks and international government agencies involved in the development of medical countermeasures to infectious disease threats. Dr Farrell is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Leigh is also a member of the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute Commercialisation Committee.



From the Bench to the C-Suite

I have been asked to write about how I went from academic scientist to biotechnology executive. So I hope you enjoy reading about the journey as much as I have enjoyed living it. Here goes…

Student Days

I completed my PhD in mapping the expression of keratin proteins in the development of the wool fibre. The work was carried out at CSIRO in Parkville Melbourne, and funded by a scholarship from the Australian Wool Board. My father-in-law was a grazier in the North-West of NSW and he commented that he wanted to know what practical use my research had for him and his sheep management. This was the first time I had been so directly confronted by the disconnect between academic research and the real world. Burren Junction is about as far from the halls of academe as you could get, as you can see from the following photo!

My wife and brother-in-law shovelling a lot of keratin proteins on the farm in north-western NSW.

Employment in transition

After completing my PhD I undertook a post-doc in neuronal development at what was then the Children’s Medical Research Foundation in Sydney. After 2 years there I decided that the brain was far too complex to understand by studying single proteins on the neuronal surface and took a tenured job as Manager of the Centre for Immunology at St Vincent’s Hospital. Whilst there, I had to focus on practical everyday challenges of running a research and clinical organization, and this gave me pause for thought. I was still doing some research part time, but most of my day was spent solving practical problems.

I became interested in translating research to directly benefit people. And I figured that the best way to do that was to commercialise it – put crassly – to sell them a product that would benefit them. So I commenced an MBA to equip me to move into the commercial world one day, without really knowing how that would happen. It took me 7 years part-time, by correspondence, including a 2 year break after my daughter was born.


My day to day challenges at the CFI included maintaining a bank of valuable pathology samples at -80°C. One day, at 3am, I was awoken by a phone call telling me that one of the freezers had broken down. I got out of bed, drove in to the hospital and dealt with the problem. The next day I tried to see if anyone actually outsourced deep storage of biological material. No-one did, so I decided to start my own business doing just that. I had to develop a business plan, get supporters, a Board, investors and ultimately funds to make that idea a reality. Thus Cryosite was born. We listed it on the ASX in 2000, raising $3M. I was suddenly a Director of an ASX listed company. Fortunately, I had undertaken an MBA part –time so I understood at least the theory of corporate life, but the reality was much more difficult, challenging and, yes, exciting, than anything I had studied. So began my journey into the corporate world, a journey that I have been on now since I left St Vincent’s Hospital in 2002.

Lessons learned

The commercial (biotech) world is a very challenging place. You need a combination of skills to succeed:

  • resilience to cope with the inevitable low points – lack of funding, negative comments and rejection
  • lateral thinking – to see an opportunity and to work out how to proceed, even when most people say “That will never work”
  • networking skills – when you have a broad network to call on, it really helps at times
  • discipline – distraction is everywhere. Prioritise, focus and delegate appropriately.
  • sense of humour – it’s very important to maintain perspective

At times in my journey it all seemed too hard, but at other times, such as raising around $60M in the US (and ringing the bell to open the NASDAQ) to be able to get a gene therapy technology into the clinic, there were major personal satisfaction moments to be had. I would have benefitted enormously from the guidance of a mentor along the way, especially in the tough times, but organisations such as IMNIS weren’t around when I was staring my journey. I had a couple of great people who helped me at various times with advice and reassurance, which I will never forget, and that is what motivates me to act as a mentor for others starting in this area.

My PhD certainly helped me in teaching me the importance of discipline, focus and networking, and lateral thinking. My MBA taught me the language of commerce.

Do you need a PhD or and MBA to be a CEO of a biotech company? I think they help open doors and to stay inside once the door opens, but they aren’t essential to success. Determination, resilience, vision and courage – and a sense of humour – are more important in the long run. As is the support from a trusted mentor or mentors (needs change along the way, and mentors might too!). But the qualifications do certainly help.

About the author:

On top of the Chrysler Building, New York, in 2014, on one of my many fund-raising trips to the US.

Dr Peter French is a cell and molecular biologist.  In 1998 he founded ASX-listed Cryosite (ASX:CTE), Australia’s first cord blood stem cell storage company. He wrote the initial business plan and assembled the original board and management team. He listed Cryosite on the ASX in 2000, and served as a non-executive director until 2006. Cryosite currently pays dividends to its shareholders. In 2003 he was appointed CEO and Managing Director of ASX-listed Probiomics Ltd (ASX:PCC), a company involved in developing, manufacturing and launching probiotic based products in Australia and Singapore. In 2006 Peter took up the position of Chief Scientist for start-up company Fermiscan Limited, a company developing a novel test for breast cancer.. 

In 2010 he was appointed Managing Director of ASX-listed gene therapy company Benitec Biopharma Limited (ASX:BLT). Peter grew the company from 1.5 FTEs in 2010 to 28 FTEs in December 2015, and initiated the Company’s product portfolio. He conducted several successful capital raisings in the US (approximately $60M raised), including a NASDAQ listing in 2015. Currently, Peter is an Executive Director on the Board of Bioxyne Limited (ASX:BXN), an ASX-listed company developing, marketing and selling a probiotic for immune and gut health, and is a Director of AusDiagnostics Pty Limited, a diagnostic kit manufacturer based in Sydney. Peter was awarded the title of “Innovator of Influence” from the Australian Science and Innovation Forum in November 2015.




A successful year of industry mentoring in STEM

What an amazing year 2017 has been! The Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) started as a small-scale pilot and this year has expanded to over 400 IMNIS participants from around Australia with 200+ motivated PhD students and 200+ industry leaders.

With our partners MTPConnect and AusBiotech, we have launched the IMNIS MedTech-Pharma Program in QLD, NSW, VIC and SA, the Minerals Resources program in WA and QLD with METS Ignited, and the Energy Resources program in WA and SA with NERA. There are 14 Universities enrolled and six of these are running more than one program area. We have hosted multiple state-level events and presented at numerous symposia, and excitingly, we will do it all again in the New Year!

We have now reached half way in most IMNIS programs. The impact industry mentors are having on their mentees is clear. Already, mentees are more confident communicating and networking in a room full of high-level industry professionals, and early feedback from our recent national Pulse Survey only confirms their gratitude and appreciation for their mentors’ professional support and guidance. Thank you all for your strong commitment to mentoring and collaboration.

Through our website and social media platforms, the public profile of IMNIS has increased and we now receive regular enquiries from students, early career researchers and new potential mentors – our broader IMNIS Network has grown to over 500 professionals in a range of STEM disciplines, including IMNIS Alumni, Champions and Expert Advisors, ATSE’s leadership, University liaisons, and more. To our facilitators, panellists and speakers – thank you again for your time and valuable contributions. We are also grateful to our Partners, Sponsors and Supporters for their engagement and support.

Holiday reading from our blog: From academic to startup founder – so far, so good. Dr Iwan Cornelius, founder and Managing Director of Amentum Defence and Security shares sound advice on the transition from academia to entrepreneurship. You can also meet IMNIS mentee Jomana Al-Nu’airat from Murdoch University in Western Australia who says, “I was struggling to communicate with industry… So through IMNIS I’m ready to learn!” A reminder we are on Twitter (@_IMNIS) and Facebook so you can keep track of the latest events, blogs and profiles. Hashtags are #IMNIS #mentoring #STEMcareers #industry #leadership. Blogs, profiles and more are available at our website:

Finally, my thanks to the IMNIS team, Dr Janet Yeo and Ms Sarah Hayward. They are excellent colleagues committed to mentoring and collaboration.

So on behalf of the team – best wishes for the festive season. Wishing you all much rest and relaxation. See you in 2018 for more industry mentoring!

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea, PhD

IMNIS Executive Director

Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering


Engineering opens doors and opportunities

I have never been the type of person who plans their career, knows what they want to do five years from now and puts goals in place to make it happen.  I am not sure why that is (some accuse me of laziness) but suspect it is just in my personality to see where things lead and follow opportunities as they appear – and luckily, this has worked out pretty well for me.

In Year 12, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career (and to be honest, still don’t!) – I was equally good at the STEM subjects as I was at the humanities so fortunately my options were wide open upon graduating.  Initially toying with the idea of doing Bachelor of Arts (much to the disapproval of my parents), I landed up at the University of Western Australia undertaking a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (BEng).

I honestly did not enjoy my degree as much as I had hoped, finding it overly theoretical rather than practically focussed and did have concerns  early on in my career as to whether I had pursued the right thing for me.  In hindsight, however, my BEng has opened so many doors and opportunities, it has been the perfect platform in launching my many different career paths over the last 22 years.

Starting out as a graduate engineer working for a multinational industrial company, my career roles have included design engineer, maintenance engineer, project manager, business owner, operations manager, R&D tax consultant, management consultant, lobbyist/advocate for an industry body and more recently as a Partner in one of the Big 4 Professional Services firm, KPMG (all happening alongside the more important roles of husband and father!).

It is in my current role at Partner at KPMG that truly highlights the diverse (and what would on the surface appear to be strange) career paths for STEM graduates.  My team and I assist companies undertaking Research and Development (R&D) projects access government tax incentives – while the R&D tax incentive program operates under tax law, there is also a need for my team and me to understand the often complex R&D being undertaken by these companies in order for us to be best placed to assist them.

Given we deal with companies in sectors as diverse as mining, biotech, information technology and manufacturing, the majority of my team are STEM graduates in these fields – this allows us to interrogate the companies R&D projects at a technical level and determine if they are eligible for the incentives according to the relevant tax law.

Currently in my team I have personnel with the following STEM qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Science (Neuroscience)
  • PHD (Neuroscience)
  • Masters of Technology (Innovation)
  • Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Sciences)
  • Graduate Diploma – Public Health
  • Bachelor of Science (Geological and Earth Sciences)
  • Bachelor of Science (Geology and Geochemistry)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Engineering)
  • Masters of Science (Computer Science)

In addition to the STEM qualifications, many of my staff have also undertaken business focussed studies including Bachelors of Commerce and Masters of Business Administration (MBA).

By employing STEM-qualified personnel (in a traditional tax role), KPMG are able to provide a very specialised service to our clients – instead of having our clients trying to explain complex technical projects to accountants, they can have much more informed discussions with our STEM staff.  This allows us to maximise their R&D tax incentive benefits while at the same time minimising their risk of registering incorrect claims.

Finally, when I ask my team what they enjoy most about their jobs, the most common answer is the variety – the variety of companies (from start-ups to multinationals), sectors (IT to agribusiness) and R&D projects (continuous improvement to world changing) they get to immerse themselves in on a daily basis.

About the author:

James Edwards is a qualified Engineer and Partner within KPMG’s tax practice. James has worked in a diverse range of roles over the past 21 years including engineering, innovation/R&D, project management, advocacy/external affairs, management consulting and taxation, advising a range of clients from tech start-ups to ASX 100 companies across all industries including mining, oil and gas, IT and manufacturing.