Student and Alumni Interview: Mason Song and Alex Harding

JHU student, Mason Song, sat with alum, Alex Harding, to discuss Alex’s journey toward his career and reflect on lessons he could relay to Mason and all students interested in the Biotech industry. Mason details this interaction through the latest “Life Design Conversation.”

Student: Mason Song

As a  freshman majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Computer Science, listening to an alumni’s educational journey to career was a truly insightful experience. Given the current atmosphere amidst COVID-19, I wanted to know how alums try to navigate their goals and careers with this new virtual norm. As I interviewed Alex Harding, I gathered so much new information and pieces of knowledge I will continue to carry with me through my college experience.

What Did Alex Share With You About His Career Journey?

One word to describe Alex’s whole career is “diversity.” He started off as a history major at Yale University. During this time, he founded a nonprofit organization called Water Ecuador, which helps provide clean and affordable drinking water. He also received an MBA from the Harvard Business School, and later his MD from the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. He completed his internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. Alex admits that, although switching and trying different fields are challenging and risky, it is through these experiences that he was able to develop connections and particular skillsets. Despite working as both a physician and a senior associate, it is through this duality of Alex’s passion of helping people overall where he was able to reconcile his interests and build his career.

What Has He Experienced In His Professional World In Light Of COVID-19?

As a senior associate with Atlas Ventures, Alex helps evaluate his startup company’s’ proposals to make strategic decisions on seeding investments. He emphasized the key ingredients of success for any startup is having an exceptional team and taking initiative. He concedes the Biotech industry has undergone a huge impact through both A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) and COVID-19 pandemic but believes it should add to a new layer for exploration and collaboration between different scientists. He sees A.I. as a very important development in the biotech industry to efficiently gather data and information, but the real challenge lies in carefully merging this with other disciplines. The COVID-19 pandemic has also taken a toll on progress due to the sheer increase of cases leading to constrained resources and increased clinical trials. Serving in the front lines by helping patients, Alex sees this struggle every day. Much like how the startup companies demand intensive collaboration and cooperation, this pandemic has also led to the need for global collaboration and research more than ever.

What Did You Take Away From Your Student-Alumni Conversation?

This interview has demonstrated the importance of finding light in the dark. Alex, and many other alumni, have experienced countless trial and error towards finding the ideal career by merging their passions and skills with the times. As the biotech industry continues to progress,  through the integration of startup investment and the integration of A.I. in facing the pandemic, so can we as college students in shaping our own path. I know it has only encouraged me to continue to evolve and pursue my interests and continue to merge what I find interesting with how I can integrate it into my career.

By Maren Gonzales
Maren Gonzales Communications Associate