Xu Hua Fu was introduced to the business world through her parents’ restaurant. As a teenager, she helped her parents with crucial tasks, such as negotiating leases on their behalf.
“When you only speak Cantonese, you make your only child do these things,” says Fu, known as Becky, who is now a Stanford doctoral student focusing on genetics.
Fu was the first person in her family to attend college; she then earned a master’s degree in biomedical informatics from Stanford in 2016. At the time, she didn’t expect her past business experience to be relevant, much less to seek business and entrepreneurship training at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
As a PhD candidate, she joined biologist Andrew Fire’s lab, where the Nobel Prize-winning professor encouraged her to experiment. Fu focused on applications related to genome editing system Crispr-Cas9, which was then relatively novel.
“I was looking at [these applications] before they were proven to be revolutionary,” Fu says with pride.
Fu has since co-authored several academic articles about the system and gene splicing tools, which have been used to study organisms and the protein from bacterial immune systems — and, more recently, to perform genome editing in dog, cow, and human embryos.
Observing the potential industry-side applications for her academic knowledge led Fu to apply to Stanford Ignite – Full-Time. She’d noticed that many of her professors led biotech ventures in addition to enjoying successful academic careers. And while she knew how to run a restaurant and conduct lab research, Fu didn’t know how to start a company. The four-week, full-time Ignite program, which Fu attended in summer 2017, teaches working professionals and graduate students how to evaluate, develop, and commercialize business ideas.
“Coming from a science field, I feel like the interface between academia and industry is so blended nowadays,” she says. “Stanford Ignite gives you business skills, including skills in finance and economics, to help prepare for when you’re let loose to build your own startup.”
Getting the chance to augment her academic skill set with business training seemed both practical and interesting. Ignite also provided Fu with more opportunities to team up and collaborate with fellow students — the reason she originally selected Stanford over other graduate schools.
“The whole environment here is innovative, merging industry and academia,” she says. “It was the best choice.”
Photos by Kiefer Hickman