Alumni Of The Month

Alumni of the Month

Hello everyone!

I’m Despina, I graduated from Jacobs in 2016 with a BSc. in Biotechnology and then moved to Eindhoven (NL) for a MSc. in Biomedical Engineering. Some years (spent in internships and then working in a Biotech startup) later, I find it very hard to introduce what I do.

Science? Business? A little bit of everything? Putting out the latest fire? Making sure stuff gets done?

Okay, okay, I will take a step back.

When 18-year old biotech-freshie me walked into the Jacobs campus, she had a vague idea of what biotech was supposed to be. (I also had no idea I’d be in the last class at Jacobs who could take that major!). But I had eyes full of excitement for the future, ideas of all the good that can be done, and a glorified image of the Person In The Lab Coat™. When 21-year old me walked out with the diploma, the lab coat felt like it was my own skin, like home, like the place to be, like the most natural choice of clothing.

And I thanked Jacobs for making it my home, and I wore it close to my heart, and made sure I could learn everything there was to learn to earn wearing it.

But one of the lessons that kept popping up was that, whatever magic happened in the lab, it still had to go through the “filter” of business to get to any one person, to help any one person. A lot of that magic didn’t make it through. I didn’t know how that filter worked, how that game was played, and I felt I needed to understand. So, (to the disappointment of various mentors, parents, advisors) I filed any PhD plans off to an undetermined point in the future and got myself a job in a Biotech startup.

This was supposed to be the place where I figured out how to take stuff from the bench to the clinic, or pharmacy, or shelf, or anywhere outside the bubble of academics.

The pandemic lockdown, ironically, helped. It sped this through. 3 months into my new job I got stranded abroad during a visit to Macedonia and had no means of going back to Germany, to the bench. And instead of the planned “we’ll ease you into working in business development in the future”, this remoteness forced my workload to suddenly become 0% pipetting, and 100% pitch decks, commercialization plans, collaboration proposals, asset presentations, questionnaires, market research, competitor analysis, business plans, and so much that up to that point just sounded like homework for some transdisciplinary course I was only taking for the credit and because it didn’t have mandatory attendance.

I kept calling it “my second masters” as a joke, but wow, the things I’ve learned in the past 3+ years.

It became apparent how much work had to happen in that “filter” for the magic to come out of the other side well-baked.
It became apparent where a lot of the blood sweat and tears go.
It became apparent how much the office suit needed to complement the lab coat.

It became apparent that what I wanted my work to be is “find the right things to be doing” “get things done” and “make sure things make sense”.

My job title says “strategic analyst” but when people ask me what I do, I try to explain I wear many hats (that’s the popular saying, though personally I like my coat/suit imagery better). I try to say I design and manage projects, I run business relationships, I process the data the labs generate, and I try to make sense of it. I do everything BUT the lab part. I sometimes miss my lab coat, but, oh well, I try not to get too sentimental 😉.

I also keep an open mind and let myself embrace opportunities that come along. So, if you have any ideas, prospects, and need to Get Things Done, (or even if you want to catch up and reminisce) get in touch with me 😊.

You can reach me at and via LinkedIn:

By Alena Di Primio

I attended Jacobs from 2013 - 2016 and left with a Bachelors Degree Majoring in Biotech. I continued in the same field with a Master (2016 - 2018) and PhD (2018 - 2023) in Marine Microbiology.

I took over the position of PR and Communications in Sept 2022 and am always happy to hear from you :)