Off the Bench and Into Science Tech Management

With more than a decade of experience as a laboratory research chemist and a master’s degree in analytical chemistry from Illinois Tech, Elliott Rice enrolled part-time in the Master of Business Administration program at Stuart School of Business with a plan to move her career path into management roles.

“Ideally, I want to use my M.B.A. to become a leader in the field of analytical chemistry and to leverage my understanding of separation science to better communicate with colleagues both above and below me,” she says.

“The Illinois Tech M.B.A. program ticked all the boxes I was looking for in a program,” says Rice. “The way the program is broken down into two eight-week course sessions each semester allowed me to focus on one class at a time without feeling totally overwhelmed while working a full-time job.”

Day-to-day work in the lab could sometimes feel a bit isolating, she says, “and the M.B.A. program really forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to grow as a professional. One of the best parts of the program is the exposure to people with such diverse backgrounds. It really amazed me how many people came from so many different professional backgrounds, and that really contributed to fulfilling discussions and interactions with classmates.”

According to Rice, some of the most valuable aspects of her M.B.A. experience are intangible, such as building confidence. “The best thing I acquired from the M.B.A. program is the confidence to speak up and share my thoughts and ideas, confidence to attempt things I may not be familiar with, and the confidence to guide others along their careers.”

“I also have learned how to manage workplace conflict and my approach to a role in management,” she says. “I don’t think these things are necessarily easy to teach or to learn, but they are tools that I have added to my toolbox with the help of Stuart.”

While enrolled in her final class for her M.B.A., Rice took a big step toward her career goal of becoming a leader in her field by joining Eurofins Environment Testing (U.S.A.) as an operations manager. In her new role, she left the comfort of the laboratory and moved into an office. Now she monitors sample preparation and production for the organic chemistry group.

Rice notes that recent undergraduate students who are entering the workforce had to attend their science curriculum from home during the pandemic. As a result, she often sees new employees struggle with the general lab techniques and confidence that collegiate laboratories provide to students.

“With my background at the bench as a chemist and my knowledge coming out of Stuart, I am able to demonstrate the bigger picture of how organizations like Eurofins work,” she says. “Being able to do that gives purpose to the work that we do day to day and can even start to build passion in the younger generation.”

“That aspect is what I am most proud of with completing my M.B.A.,” says Rice. “I am able to encourage and guide younger scientists to see that having a scientific background doesn’t force you into a box, and there are always opportunities out there if you’re willing to have an open mind and dedication.”

Photo courtesy of Tim Klein Photography.

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