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Dr. Stefanie Volland

2014-2016 BCLA President

Biotech Connection Los Angeles was founded in 2014 by Dr. Katrina Choe and Dr. Stefanie Volland. Today, a decade later, it has grown into an impactful organization of 20-30 graduate students and postdocs that continues to promote and foster the growth of Los Angeles as a biotech hub. BCLA now includes a network of over 8000 students and professionals,  a Consulting team, and produces the podcast Inside Biotech. To celebrate a decade of educating, connecting, and inspiring, we are checking in with previous Presidents of BCLA to ask them about their time in leadership and their perspective on BCLA’s impact in Los Angeles. 

This week, we interviewed Dr. Stefanie Volland, who served as BCLA President from 2014 to 2016. Stefanie earned her PhD from the University of Salzburg in Austria before coming to UCLA as a postdoc. Stefanie started BCLA (with co-founder Katrina Choe) during her time at UCLA. BCLA emerged from her desire to explore alternative career paths in the biotech industry. After completing her PhD, where most people continue in academia, Stefanie faced a lack of information for postdocs looking to transition into different fields. This inspired the creation of BCLA, aiming to welcome everyone and provide a platform to explore diverse careers.

Stefanie notes that “we had to bootstrap and figure it out as [we] go.” The start of BCLA felt similar to the beginning of a small start-up. As the first president of BCLA, Stefanie notes she was able to hone communication, event, and leadership skills, as well as understand how non-profits and small companies operate. Further, she gained valuable expertise in how to discuss partnerships, business outlines, and finances. These experiences were instrumental in shaping the professional growth of not just Stefanie, but everyone on the BCLA team.

One of the most memorable BCLA events for Stefanie during her tenure was the Biotech Summit. Although it was a crazy and stressful endeavor, the summit received great feedback and brought together many people who were instrumental in BCLA's growth. Many of these individuals, including Stefanie, are still on the board, continuing to contribute to the development of BCLA. The Biotech Summit has now grown to be an annual cornerstone event for BCLA marking the culmination of LABioTechWeek in the fall.

Over the past decade since BCLA began, the biotech landscape in Los Angeles has evolved significantly. Developing connections in the greater Los Angeles area can be difficult due to the sprawling nature of the city, an obstacle that was mentioned to Stefanie by many individuals when starting BCLA. Now, there is more infrastructure to support startups, retain talent, and continue to grow the community. 

One of the goals of BCLA was to ensure that all members felt they were part of the team, regardless of how much involvement they could give while maintaining their scientific and laboratory work. “BCLA wouldn’t have been possible without the support of others who gave a lot,” Stefanie says, highlighting the passion of all the individuals who are part of BCLA, both then and now. 

Written by Nora Emerson and Gabriella Rubert

Dr. Stefanie Volland
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