My Week in ESTEEM: December 9-15

Author: Fiona McDonnell

Fiona McDonnellFiona McDonnell

As you may have gathered from previous posts, every week in ESTEEM is jam-packed with a variety of classes, assignments and activities -- and even in the lead up to Christmas, this week was no different. Monday morning began with a presentation to the IDEA center staff as part of my internship as a Technical Market Analyst. My presentation focused on the market opportunities for a novel technology that has been developed by researchers at the University. This internship allows me to get an in-depth view into the wide variety of the research being carried out at Notre Dame and is helping me develop my skills as a presenter and technical writer while also gaining valuable insights into multiple different markets.  

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After this meeting our class gathered in Innovation Park to hear about the bike ride that we will undertake in the Spring as part of our legacy project. We will be cycling for 4 days from Grand Rapids, MI to Chicago in aid of the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund that funds research into Niemann Pick Disease Type C (NPC), an ultra-rare, genetic, lysosomal storage disorder. My Capstone Project is focused on developing a commercial launch strategy for a novel therapy for NPC and so I am delighted that as a class we will be able to raise funds for this much-needed cause. At the meeting we were tasked with breaking into groups to organize the many facets of the ride ranging from designing the jerseys, coordinating fundraising, and (most importantly) making sure everyone that’s signed up is training. The majority of the class is excited to participate and anxious to make this year’s ride a bigger success than the last! 

Our Finance final was the last item on the list for Monday. This was our last in-class exam of the semester, so everyone was delighted when it was done as there was a real sense that the holidays are getting closer. 

I had an early start on Tuesday as I prepared for my final presentation for my technical elective- Drug Discovery and Mechanisms of Action. Each semester we’re required to take ‘STEM’ classes from other colleges in the University. This class was from the engineering department so while it proved to be challenging at times, I will be taking away a lot of new concepts on a range of diseases and drug types that will be of great help going forward. 

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In the afternoon we had our final Corporate Innovation class where we were tasked with identifying issues on campus and forming a solution for these problems that could return profit for the University. We split into teams to deliver 5-minute pitches to our Professor, Mike Bechtel and esteemed (!) judge, Nick Johnson. The problems being tackled ranged from a lack mental health services among graduate students to students avoiding paying parking tickets. Hearing all the different ideas and solutions put forward by the class highlighted what creative thinkers we are as a class and also made for a lighthearted, relaxed atmosphere. From there we quickly headed to our final Technical Marketing class of the semester before the ESTEEM Christmas dinner downtown. A fantastic night was had by both students and staff as we celebrated and gave thanks for what has been an amazing 6 months and all the great friendships that have been made in ESTEEM. 

Wednesday and Thursday saw the end of classes for the semester and were spent mainly in the library, finishing off a host of assignments for our Launch Strategy, Business Law and Technical Marketing modules. I also managed to squeeze in a call with Prof. Bechtel to seek some advice about career next steps which was extremely helpful. The willingness of Professors, past students and guest speakers to give up their time to impart advice about industries, jobs and careers has astounded me and speaks to the strong connections within the community here at Notre Dame. This call was followed by a hasty run to the bookstore to pick up some last-minute Christmas gifts for my family who now will all be sporting Notre Dame merch for the ND vs. Navy game in Dublin in 2020!  

As Friday morning rolled around, I was busy packing my (quite heavy) bags to head back to Ireland for Christmas. We were joined in O’Hare by a number of past ESTEEMer’s who were also flying home for the holidays. One of the great things about ESTEEM is the alumni, many of whom are living close by in Chicago. Over the past few months we have fostered friendships with many of them who have been a great source of advice on all things Notre Dame, it’s also nice to have a couch to stay on in Chicago!  

After an overnight flight to Dublin I was greeted at the airport by my brothers and then began the car ride home to surprise my parents. While we haven’t had time to recount ALL the stories of the past 6 months, recalling some of my favorites has made me realize how much I’ve accomplished and learned in a short period of time. If I had to do them all over again, I would in a heartbeat -- let’s see what 2020 has to offer!