Life Scientist

Alumnus Jacob Elich follows a path of discovery

Jacob ElichJacob Elich (BS ECON ’17, BS SCI ’17), whose parents are both proud Boilermaker alumni, considered Purdue a second home before he even enrolled. Although attending the University was an easy choice, his planned career path took a few unexpected turns.

“I initially wanted to pursue a PhD in economics,” he says. “I received a direct admission to Krannert, allowing me to take upper-level courses in economics in my first year. Pairing this with a math degree and research assistantship, both of which I started in my first year, put me in a great position for a doctorate, but life had other plans.”

After completing internships for a variety of firms and adding a third major in statistics, Elich’s senior year introduced him to the life sciences sector through his involvement in Krannert’s Student Managed Venture Fund. “All the startups we looked at were in biotech, which proved interesting to me,” he says. “I lucked out in getting a job as an associate at ZS, a top life science consulting firm, and dove in deeper.”

His role includes working with emerging and mid-sized companies as well as “Big Pharma.”

“I manage teams and project execution on a variety of project types and clients,” he says. “For example, I’ve developed go-to-market hiring and expenditure timelines, coordinated efforts supporting an international licensing deal, and assessed joint venture promotion agreements through a sales lens. My deepest interest is in bringing products to market, especially in the cardiovascular and neuroscience spaces.”

Elich says data analytics is another vital function for his job.

“Some datasets are very big, upwards of 500-plus gigabytes — not quite Big Data, but still sufficiently large to the point where one needs to understand what the data contains and how it can be used to drive insights and solutions to questions posed by clients.

“For example, I can use patient-level data to understand how an anonymous patient is treated for a condition. However, the qualitative projects provide further context to such an analysis: How did they feel at each stage? How did the treatments affect them? Why did they switch? What do they worry about with regard to their treatment options and condition?”

Elich, who has been with ZS since June 2017, is now taking steps to advance his education and career.  “I’m currently applying to MBA programs with a goal of pursuing healthcare investment banking in the interest of leading corporate development and strategy at a life science firm one day, bringing innovative and accessible products to market to support better global health,” he says.

As he continues toward his next giant leap, Elich is confident his Purdue education will serve as a lasting foundation.

“Krannert excelled at applying critical thinking to real-life opportunities, for example, studying real-life commercialization strategies in game theory or performing due diligence on startups for investments through the venture fund," he says. "It is that intersection of academia and the real world that especially prepared me for my career — taking previously learned concepts and, through critical thinking, applying them to real decisions that affect real lives and cost real money.”

Elich encourages current students to take advantage of such opportunities and further challenge themselves with difficult coursework.

“Take that hard class — stochastic processes, game theory, metaphysics, etc. Be cognizant of how you actually perform so you don’t ruin your GPA, but don’t let that be an obstacle,” he says “It will develop your ability to learn unfamiliar work, which is critical when it’s midnight and you’re neck-deep in a new project running an analysis that you need for the morning!”