Rishi Mahajan ’09MS

After earning an undergraduate degree in pharmacy in his native India, Rishi Mahajan ’09MS looked forward to attending a leading graduate program in the field. He decided he would find what he was looking for in the United States.

“The school I went to,” he explained, “did not have the funding to provide sophisticated technology or hands-on laboratory training.”

Rishi’s goal was to gain the expertise and accreditation that would enable him to contribute to the discovery of new therapies to treat diabetes. “I was inspired,” he said, “by wanting to help people like my mother, who suffers from the disease.”

His quest led him to St. John’s University. “The program clearly offered students outstanding opportunities for field experiences,” Rishi said. “I was also impressed by its graduates’ success in securing high-level pharmaceutical positions.”

Rishi enrolled in St. John's College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ master’s degree program in pharmaceutical sciences. He found the program’s specialization in biotechnology especially compelling. When the program moved to the University’s Institute for Biotechnology, so did Rishi.

The new Master of Science Degree Program in Biological and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology proved to be even more intensive. It further sparked Rishi’s intellectual curiosity and drive. “His academic excellence set him apart,” said Diana Bartelt, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Internship Coordinator, Institute for Biotechnology.

This prowess led to Rishi’s becoming the first in his class to earn an internship. The company, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, was so pleased by his performance that it extended his position by three months, ultimately hiring him.

At Regeneron, Rishi has continued to shine. Finishing his internship on a Friday, he graduated during the weekend and began his full-time position as a research associate on Monday. He has already received a promotion. “My immediate goal,” he said, “is to become a scientist in the company’s research and development division.”

Since Regeneron tapped Rishi, it has awarded internships to 10 additional graduate students — five of whom also have been hired. Rishi credits Dr. Bartelt for making it all possible. “Her classes gave me a solid foundation in molecular biology and helped me develop laboratory research expertise,” he said. “And the personal support I received made the final difference.”