Life Sciences

The women behind Thermo Fisher Scientific

From product engineering to drug development, strategic portfolio oversight and leading an entire region’s business presence, four women working for the world leader in serving science share their perspectives.

Allison Nguyen, Product Engineering Leadership Development Program & Systems Design Engineer, Genetic Sciences.

Q. Can you please briefly explain your current role at Thermo Fisher Scientific and share the career path you took that led you there?


A. I am currently a Product Engineering Leadership Development Program (PELDP) Candidate at Thermo Fisher Scientific. The PELDP is a comprehensive two-year program that focuses on product design and development, while also emphasising leadership development and gaining a strong understanding of the various roles within product engineering. In my final rotation of the program, I am a systems engineer, where I am actively involved in the development of a cutting-edge microarray platform that aims to enhance the detection of genetic risk factors in areas such as reproductive health and oncology. My daily responsibilities often revolve around leading system integration tasks, designing and executing experiments and conducting data analysis. My journey at Thermo Fisher began as an operations intern, which ultimately led me to pursue the PELDP after completing my college education. During my time at UC Berkeley, I studied bioengineering, with a focus on medical devices, and I also pursued a minor in electrical engineering and computer sciences.

Q. What has been the greatest accomplishment of your career to date?

A. My greatest career accomplishment to date was the opportunity to deliver the keynote address at the inaugural Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge (JIC) Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC. The Thermo Fisher JIC, a program of Society for Science, is one of our company’s key partnerships to advance Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education access and equity for all students. It reaches over 65,000 middle schoolers nationwide and inspires them to follow their STEM passions through college and career. It was an incredible honour to share my own journey, emphasising the significance of communication, leadership and teamwork in STEM, as well as the importance of building a supportive STEM community and mentorship network. Sharing my personal story and being vulnerable in front of a large crowd pushed me beyond my comfort zone and was unlike anything I had done before, but it ended up being extremely fulfilling and one of my fondest memories. As I sat in the audience after my speech, I was incredibly inspired by the remarkable student projects and the finalists’ passion for STEM. The biggest win from the night for me was the heartfelt connections I made when the JIC finalists, parents and executives approached me after the ceremony to share how my story resonated with and inspired them. It was incredibly rewarding to motivate the JIC finalists, our future leaders and innovators, to continue pursuing their STEM journeys.

Q. Who inspired you as a younger woman and what advice would you give to young women aspiring to follow your path?

A. My dad was my biggest inspiration growing up and the biggest influence in my decision to pursue STEM. He was a refugee, who had to flee his war-torn birth country of Vietnam at the young age of ten, not knowing if he’d ever see his parents again. He came to America with little to nothing and had to start his life anew, facing cultural and language barriers every single day. Against all odds, he paved a way for himself, went to college at 16, pursued his passions and became a brilliant engineer. He and my mom worked so hard to provide me and my brother with the opportunities that they couldn’t have growing up. His selflessness and his passion inspired me as a young girl and continue to inspire me today.

To young women aspiring to follow a similar path, I would offer this advice: discover what truly ignites your passion and motivates you. Cultivate a strong sense of identity, as it will serve as your anchor during the inevitable challenges and setbacks you will face in your career. There may be moments of self-doubt when you question your worth and abilities, but relying on external validation or circumstances is not the solution. Instead, build an unshakable foundation of self-identity that cannot be broken, even during turbulent times. Your unique spark is your failsafe. Know what you are working toward and let that inner fire inspire you to rise above any adversity and grow into the best version of yourself.

Q. What’s your opinion on what we can do to increase female participation in the pharmaceutical/biotech field?

A. We need to prioritise the establishment of robust mentorship programs that will foster long-lasting and meaningful connections between young women and professionals in the field, as these connections will provide young women that sense of belonging that is often lacking for many women in STEM.

Urmi Prasad Richardson, President, Europe, Middle East & Africa.

Q. Can you please briefly explain your current role at Thermo Fisher Scientific and share the career path you took that led you there?



A. I’m the president for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region at Thermo Fisher – a role I’ve held for almost three years. I’m responsible for aligning our company’s commercial and market development strategies across the region to best support our customers, accelerate growth and leverage the breadth and depth of our portfolio. Born in India, educated in and having worked throughout Asia, Europe and the US before my current base in Germany, I’ve enjoyed a diverse career. I consider myself a global citizen and have been fortunate to have an impact and responsibilities in APAC, LATAM and EMEA. A scientist at heart, I believe it’s important to build bridges between science and business, to accelerate solutions and be able to implement sustainably and at scale. My science background has focused on molecular diagnostics, primarily in infectious diseases and transfusion medicine. I’ve had a passion for cancer genomics from my research days and it’s been inspiring to be part of the evolution of next-generation sequencing and the impact that precision medicine can make on clinical outcomes and patient care. Prior to joining Thermo Fisher, I was the global head of healthcare at Linde for several years, as well as Vice-President International at Foundation Medicine (Roche), and held other senior business and strategy positions at Novartis, Immucor, Chiron and G.D. Searle. I spent many years working in laboratories as a scientist and, from there, decided to develop my career in business development with a passion for biotech and biopharma.

Q. To what do you attribute today’s growth and increased focus on STEM?

A. Over the last few decades or so, we’ve seen amazing scientific discoveries, which have been shared and communicated in a way that the public can understand, relate to and access – for example, CRISPR, mRNA, Artificial Intelligence (AI), chip technology, the metaverse, etc. Science used to be a little scary or boring in the way it was taught in schools. Now, science can be taught more engagingly using technology and tools that are more broadly available. There are better information channels to highlight the wide range of everyday life activities and extraordinary events that are either impacted or explained by science.

Covid-19 was a huge, tragic, global experience, which had an impact on everyone, but it also gave people time (especially during long quarantine periods) to really think about the science that was being used to explain and combat the virus – knowledge that used to only be for those who sought it in education. The solutions were being discussed and explored in real time and had an effect on us all, making the science far more visible and personally applicable. Developments in technology have accelerated in the last few decades and the time from research to application has shortened. Knowledge of discovery can reach the general population easier and faster. Despite all this, most people – women included – can’t name more than one famous, nationally-renowned woman in STEM, who has inspired them. I’d like to see this change!

Q. Have you faced any obstacles within the pharmaceutical industry that you feel were directly related to being a woman?

A. To be successful, I have learned how to be effective, be taken seriously and remain authentic. I regularly think about how to balance what I want to achieve against the perceptions or biases (unconscious or not), which I may face.

There are still scenarios that happen, which could be attributed to being a woman in the sector because I have rarely, if ever, heard these statements from a male colleague’s experience. For example:

  • Attending a meeting alongside my majority-male colleagues to find that the men had engaged in the conversation before me because an incorrect assumption was made that I was probably not the decision-maker.
  • Having to work twice as hard to prove myself a subject matter expert.
  • Assertiveness, though occasional, professional and necessary, being considered ‘aggressive’.
  • Being mistaken for the person, who should be bringing coffee to the meeting room (when I was the meeting leader).
  • Being advised to cut my hair, so I can be taken more seriously and asked to smile more.

It sounds like I Googled these, but they have all happened to me during my career!

Another obstacle has been a lack of female mentors for female executives. Even when there has been female executive leadership, they haven’t often been actively engaged in or offered help or mentoring. That support tended to be for newer-in-career colleagues, but not for those at a level who would benefit from it as part of business succession planning.

Q. What’s your opinion on what we can do to increase female participation in the pharmaceutical/biotech field?

A. Promote women into C-suite and executive management; give training, coaching and mentoring, and provide development opportunities and career paths into executive roles – because the lack of pipeline is a huge potential barrier. So, if we give better support and mentoring to women at every stage of their career and at every level, I believe the candidate pool of females with the experience and qualifications for C-suite roles would be far larger and far more capable in helping address any imbalances that might currently exist.

Rose Blackburne, MD, MBA, Vice-President, Medical Science & Strategy, Global Head of General Medicine & Women’s Health, Clinical Research.

Q. Can you please briefly explain your current role at Thermo Fisher Scientific and share the career path you took that led you there?

A. My parents were professionals and very involved in civil rights and community service; they encouraged me to pursue medicine as a career. I became the first physician in my family. One of the reasons I chose obstetrics/gynaecology as my medical specialty was because there were so many women role models in it. I also liked the variety of surgery, preventive care and taking care of women across their lifespan.

Before I went to medical school, I worked in Washington, DC, for a congressman from New York. I worked on science and technology policy, as well as maternal and child health issues. There, I learned we needed more women and more minority physicians that understood how policy and legislation can impact healthcare. I received my medical degree at the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) in Atlanta, Georgia, completed an obstetrics and gynaecology residency at Columbia University in New York and earned an MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia.

I transitioned from clinical practice to clinical research after becoming a clinical trial investigator for women’s health products. I was a practicing physician and principal investigator for clinical trials for many years prior to joining the Contract Research Organization (CRO) industry.

In my current role at Thermo Fisher, I have strategic input and oversight for a portfolio of pharmaceutical product development opportunities across therapeutic areas, including women’s health, nephrology, dermatology, urology and gastrointestinal/liver.

Q. To what do you attribute today’s growth and increased focus on STEM?

A. There is a lot of focus and discussion on technology companies (environmental/life sciences, technology/social media, AI, smartphones, smart cars, etc.), so STEM is being discussed a lot in the public domain. Also, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z and now Gen Alpha were introduced to technology very early in their lives and have been raised on it.

There are several factors driving these developments: the need for keeping up with technological advancements, addressing gender disparities and promoting evidence-based decision-making.

1) Recent, significant advancements in technology, ranging from innovative diagnostic tools to personalised treatment options, require a workforce equipped with STEM skills to develop, implement and operate these technologies effectively.

2) Historically, women have been underrepresented in all STEM fields, including healthcare and medical research. However, there is a growing recognition of the importance of gender diversity in these areas, as diverse perspectives will lead us to more comprehensive research and better healthcare solutions.

3) STEM education equips individuals with the skills to critically analyse data, conduct research and interpret scientific findings, helping to ensure that decisions related to healthcare diagnosis, treatment and policy are grounded in rigorous scientific principles. Most industries, even those not usually thought of as STEM or technology-based areas, will rely on technology to become more efficient and cost-effective and to stay competitive. As boomers beginning to ‘age out’ of the workforce, the pipeline needs to be educated in STEM fields, starting with elementary and secondary education.

Q. Have your choices of academic institutions, organisations or companies ever been influenced by the gender balance of staff or programs in place that encourage diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI)?

A. Although MSM is one of only four medical schools that is also a Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU), when I attended, the student body was about 50% women and truly racially and ethnically diverse, including not only black, but white, Asian and Hispanic students. Originally a part of Morehouse College, a private, historically black men’s liberal arts college, the school became independent in 1981. In 2022, 66% of the MSM student body, as well as faculty and administrators at MSM, comprised women. In fact, MSM is one of only a few US medical schools that has a female president/CEO.

Moving forward in my career, I always identified institutions and organisations that display gender, as well as racial/ethnic diversity. I understood the importance of ‘seeing myself’ in an organisation’s leadership.

I also have a passion for health equity and women’s health and policies. One of the reasons I was interested in working for PPD and now Thermo Fisher was their historical commitment to DEI and health equity, through initiatives such as a focus on increasing diversity in clinical trials, STEM education activities and the JUST Project. There is also an established global network of business resource groups that support and align with different identities, including women, people of African heritage, Asian heritage, Hispanic/Latino heritage, LGBTQ+, veterans and persons with different abilities. Also, 47% of the company’s current leadership is composed of women.

Q. What’s your opinion on what we can do to increase female participation in the pharmaceutical/biotech field?

A. In my opinion, it is crucial to establish mentorship programs, provide equal opportunities for career advancement and promote a supportive and inclusive work environment that encourages women to pursue and thrive in STEM-related roles. Also, participating in school ‘career day’ type programs and partnering as early as elementary and middle school to encourage and expose girls to STEM classes is important. It prepares them for high school science and math at the Advanced Placement (AP) and honours level, so that they are ready for STEM coursework and STEM majors at the college and graduate school level.

Virginia Lorenzo, Supervisor, Pharma Development Service Formulation/Analytical Development, Ferentino, Italy site, Pharma Services.

Q. Can you please briefly explain your current role at Thermo Fisher Scientific and share the career path you took that led you there?

A. My current role is a formulation and analytical development (FD/AD) supervisor in the Pharma Development Service (PDS) team at Thermo Fisher’s site in Ferentino, Italy. I lead a group of scientists that work to develop new drug product formulations and robust processes that will be scaled up in sterile manufacturing.

Regarding my career path, I started with a BSc in biotechnology and an MSc in genetic science and technology. I then obtained a research fellowship and a PhD in biochemistry, having the opportunity to apply laboratory technologies in recombinant protein and peptides.

During the last months of my PhD, I was selected by an Italian pharmaceutical company to be a scientist in their R&D department. There, working with plasma-derived orphan drug development, I had – for the first time – the impression that my work made a difference. I was developing processes and analytical methods for a drug designated only to treat one little girl in Italy.

After three years of experience in that company, I was hired by Thermo Fisher in the PDS project management team. During the following three years, I had experience in managing several formulation projects from a different perspective – not only scientific, but also focused on team collaboration, networking and client satisfaction. Subsequently, considering my skills in managing formulation projects and my background, I had the opportunity to take a new role available on-site as an FD/AD supervisor.

Q. Who inspired you as a younger woman and what advice would you give to young women aspiring to follow your path?

A. I have been and continue to be inspired in my career by other women with a determination to reach results and ability to inspire others to find a better way every day.

I appreciate the clarity of giving direction followed by concrete actions. My advice is, “Don’t let alibis stop you”. Recognising the excuses we tell ourselves is a good exercise to recognise the excuses that we will meet in our career. Furthermore, search for a mentor or model that inspires you and recognises your potential, then analyse the reasons for your admiration and work on your top strengths and opportunities of improvement to be a model for others.

Q: Can you share your experience as a woman balancing a demanding career with family responsibilities? What are some tips for other women trying to do the same?

A. I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend before being a scientist or a supervisor.

My family is my first supportive team. In my experience, it is important to have a good organisation, some flexibility at work in case of emergencies and to be surrounded by people that approve and support your choices. Having a person next to you that doesn’t clip your wings is fundamental because they will be your first fan and supporter when some difficulties come.

Q. What’s your opinion on what we can do to increase female participation in the pharmaceutical/biotech field?

A. Organise seminaries in universities or be part of strategic meetings where a young female presence is guaranteed. Sharing women’s experiences proves the added value of women in pharma work and that a good work/life balance is possible.


About Thermo Fisher Scientific

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc is the world leader in serving science, with annual revenue exceeding $40 billion. Our Mission is to enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. Whether our customers are accelerating life sciences research, solving complex analytical challenges, improving patient diagnostics and therapies or increasing productivity in their laboratories, we are here to support them. Our global team of more than 100,000 colleagues delivers an unrivalled combination of innovative technologies, purchasing convenience and pharmaceutical services through our industry-leading brands, including Thermo Scientific, Applied Biosystems, Invitrogen, Fisher Scientific, Unity Lab Services, Patheon and PPD. For more information, please visit