2019 Catalyst Award for Top New Hire – Mina Huang

Employee Information:
First Name: Mina
Last Name: Huang
Title: Co-op Student

Employer Information
Employer Name: STEMCELL Technologies

Describe how the new-graduate employee has made significant contributions to:

Company culture:
STEMCELL Technologies is driven by five core values: innovation, quality, responsiveness, integrity, and collaboration. These core values enable us to deliver the highest quality products and support, driving cutting edge basic and clinical research around the globe; for this to happen it is imperative for our employees to embrace, and embody these core values in their company culture. Within weeks after beginning her term, Mina was functioning as an internal ambassador for STEMCELL both employing theses values into her own work but also working to expand the company culture within the co-op student body. Mina functioned as an unofficial mentor for new students. Her natural scientific curiosity led to spending her own time performing literature searches well beyond what was required for her position.

This initiative led to her being extremely prepared and able to discuss aspects of hers and other projects well beyond a student level. As more members in her group become comfortable with her level of understanding, she was treated as a valuable asset. Her reputation as a quiet leader was quickly identified amongst the other students and resulted in her spending extra time transferring the fundamentals of her skillset within her co-op cohort. Her combined work ethic with natural skills led to her fitting in very quickly with both student and full time employees. Within her group she was able to communicate results effectively and developed excellent troubleshooting skill with all technical aspects of her project. She was comfortable with communication outside the group and discussed collaborative projects that expanded the scope of her work. Within her student group, Mina participated in various company intermural teams, donated her time to various charities, and helped run the unofficial co-op student social club. By the end of her term, Mina had not only fit perfectly with the defined STEMCELL culture but was able to increase the standards for what was expected both at the student and early full-time employee levels.

Company’s sense of innovation:
Organoid technology was listed as the Method of the year for 2017 by the Nature publication group. This platform technology is enabling ground-breaking research in stem cell biology, disease modeling, patient drug screening, and many other advancements in personalized medicine. As “Scientists helping Scientists”, STEMCELL Technologies is dedicated to cutting edge innovation and has worked closely with the pioneers of the field to drive this platform forward. Mina was assigned to develop a product for the Organoid market that could be commercialized in the Fiscal year. Though this was an ambitious project Mina surpassed all expectations; she demonstrated both technical, academic, and business creativity, not only trying to recreate a product but to advance the performance from what had been learned through current literature and company expertise. Her drive and determination were evident in the independent troubleshooting, research, and collaborative efforts that she spearheaded without prompt. In the short time Mina was at STEMCELL she managed to beat the “state of the art” in the product she was building. Mina left behind protocols, documentation, and presentations that would support marketing, sales, RND and manufacturing; thus, enabling the project to continue from commercialization to distribution. It was her innovative mindset that was necessary to succeed on a project that involved such a novel technology.

The achievement of a team or company business objective:
Development of Organoid products was listed as a corporate goal for the entire company in 2017 and the Intestinal team’s alignment with corporate goals meant Mina’s project directly tied into this corporate priority. It is not common to give a co-op student a completely independent project and even less common, a project was a corporate priority but there were no reservations once Mina’s talents were observed. On her own project Mina’s work ethic and creativity enabled her to make significant strides towards the development of a media product. She was able to overcome technical challenges during the development and optimization steps by balancing effective communication and independent problem solving. She surpassed her goal on the project timely and worked diligently to transfer the knowledge to allow for the continuation towards the product release objective.

Overcoming of a business challenge:
Producing the highest quality products that meets market needs is essential to drive cutting edge science forward. When the technology that is being commercialized is novel and relatively uncharacterized, a unique challenge exists that more detail must go into understanding the fundamental aspects of how it works but due to the excitement and demand, the developmental timelines are shortened. Mina was made aware of these challenges right from the interview stage of her studentship and instead of caving to pressure, it seemed to motivate her more. She spent extra time with supervisors designing and conducting experiments that had increased complexity and would allow for results that streamline development. She worked at pace through her entire term to ensure tight timelines were hit and STEMCELL’s commitment to supporting such a novel technology could be upheld. Mina’s development efforts created a product that beats the state of the art, will be the first commercially available product of its kind, and its revenues will enable growth of the Intestinal team portfolio.