Amir Bahar

 
Background

Dr. Amir Bahar joined the nano-engineering group at the Technion as a project manager in February 2011. The group focuses on developing a novel haemostatic medical device composed of biological nano-fibers. The group is part of the Mechanical Engineering department and is led by Prof. Eyal Zussman. The project is currently at an early development phase and is carried out in full collaboration with the biotech company BiolineRX.

Dr. Bahar has extensive experience in neuroscience research. He combined molecular, pharmacological, electrophysiological, computational and behavioral techniques to study learning and memory in behaving animals.

Dr. Bahar conducted his post-doctoral training at the lab of Matthew Shapiro in Mount Sinai Medical School, New York City. He holds a PhD and MSc in Neurobiology from the Weizmann Institute, supervised by Prof. Yadin Dudai and Prof. Ehud Ahissar. He received his BSc in Life Sciences from Tel Aviv University. He also served as the NY regional manager for Bioabroad in 2007-2011.

 

How did your professional career begin?

About a year before completing my postdoc I realized that I do not wish to continue with an academic career. I was hoping to find a job at one of the pharmaceutical companies in the US, gain experience for a year or two, and return to Israel. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find a job at that time (2010) due to the economic crises, largely because I had to compete with many experienced professionals seeking jobs as well. I also tried to connect with the industry in Israel, but it was almost impossible to make meaningful connections because of the distance. After returning to Israel with my family I was looking for a job for about 3 months. I tried to use every connection I had to get my CV to as many people as possible. Eventually, a neighbor of mine passed my CV to his superior who knew a professor at the Technion who was looking for a biologist with experience in animal studies – one can never know how things will work out.

 

Did you plan your professional career? How to pave the way to reach a senior position?

For many years I was focusing my research on basic science. I did not think about a career outside the academia, so I was working on the things I found were the most interesting – the biological basis of memory. This was, of course, a big disadvantage when looking for a job in the industry. Even the techniques I have used (electrophysiological recordings in behaving animals) are hardly employed in the industry. So I had not much to offer when looking for a job. I realized that I needed first to understand exactly what I wanted and then to find what abilities I do possess and can present. Because proven experience is a must in the industry, I had to slightly compromise initially on the employment I would accept. At the moment I work at the interface of academia and industry, gaining experience and knowledge on the different aspects of developing a medical device. I feel strongly that this is a necessary step on the way to a highly challenging senior position or even provide me with the necessary skills to lead an initiative of my own.

 

Do you have suggestions for graduates of advanced degrees who wish to join the biotech industry, especially to those who do not have experience in the industry?

There are a few notions that helped me (and still do) during the transition from academia to industry:

1) Have patience, patience and more patience.

2) Try to look at everything with a broader perspective - you may have to compromise in the beginning to reach your goal.

3) Allow yourself to move away from what you know and familiar with. A year ago, when returning from the US, I defined myself as a neurobiologist who studied the brain. Who could have believed that I now develop a medical device made of nano-fibers to stop bleeding in surgeries?