The Business of Science
Evening MBA ’09
Director of Research Affairs and Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, The University of Arizona
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Sangita Pawar was always interested in business, but instead of going into finance, like many members of her family, she focused on molecular and cellular biology. Ten years ago, she came to the University of Arizona from her native India to earn her doctoral degree.
“I tried enrolling in some business classes during my graduate work, but it didn’t work out,” she said. She completed her Ph.D. and continued on the academic trajectory of teaching and research. “My research involves studying the mechanisms which result in the spread of prostate cancer to the bone,” she explains.
But that urge to add business acumen to her resume lingered. She’d seen labs get into trouble when the research team didn’t delve into the financials of their grant-funded projects.
“Understanding financials was a big motivation for me to earn an MBA,” she said. “And then my sister, who is in finance, said to me, ‘You have no idea what goes on in the real world!’ I decided that I wasn’t going to settle for that. I wanted to know!”
A friend told her about the Eller Evening MBA program, and she applied. Midway through the program, she applied for an administrative role in the UA College of Medicine. “The hiring team was impressed that I was earning my MBA and saw that I had more tools I could draw on than people who were solely focused on research.”
As director of research affairs for the College of Medicine, Dr. Pawar and her office handle all grants coming from the College, provide administrative support, and host workshops for new principal investigators — all the while continuing her own research and teaching.
“In the academic world,” she said, “there is so much emphasis on doing research for a higher good. One rarely talks about money in academia. So the MBA program was a real culture shock to me.”
In addition she said, “In the academic setting, you are surrounded by people who approach problems the same way that you do. So it was great to meet such a diverse group of working professionals.”
The emphasis on teamwork was also new. “The concept of teamwork is a little foreign in the lab — it’s all about your project,” she said. In the MBA program, she found her weekends dedicated to group projects — and her team won the last major project prize of the program.
“It was so refreshing to work with people who think along totally different lines from me,” she said. “I got the chance to meet engineers, people in human resources, people in finance. I made some really good friends in the program.”