Life in NYC, show it respect and it will pay you back with interest | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Life in NYC, show it respect and it will pay you back with interest

It's February 2015 late in the afternoon and I've just arrived at John F. Kennedy airport. Almost 24 hours of travel, minus 6° celsius, customs, rush hour and New York City’s hustle and bustle. One warm jacket, three suitcases, one yellow cab in sight…taxi!

Looking over the skyline I’m reminded of why I took this opportunity - a chance two week vacation to the Big Apple, through connections I'd made while studying my PhD at UniSC a mere 18 months earlier. Out of the cab, I ring the intercom for my Airbnb and announce while shivering, “It’s Brad here for the Airbnb mate!”. The voice replies, “What do you want? Who is this?!"

My heart sunk, victim of an Airbnb con? Surely not…

Want to come have a beer?

I utilised some smarts (and the Aussie accent!) to convince the guy on the other end that I was no stranger, just a weary traveller trying to find their bed for the evening. The kind soul let me use their mobile to contact Airbnb and as it turned out, I had rung the wrong apartment. “You must be thirsty, want to come have a beer?”.

The relief of hearing those words, a friendly voice and warm welcome was just what I needed. The kind stranger would proceed to introduce me to their housemate, tell me about their career at LinkedIn and that they went to work at the Empire State Building every day. They would also go on to become one of my best friends. What followed was a whirlwind of functions, gatherings, and fun times which quickly grew to a crew of new friends. I soon realised I was in a totally different world. NYC had me and I loved it so I pursued opportunities to live and work here.

Not for the fainthearted

I started my new job as the Senior Clinical Project Manager at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation, a non-profit organization that works with large and small medical device companies in clinical trial management and education forums.

The biggest adjustments I had to make initially were to the US work culture and particularly the NYC work culture. It is full throttle and primed for those who want to excel. I quickly learnt that if you show the city respect, it pays you back with interest. The opposite though could also be true. Be true of heart and conviction and you will always be okay.

The past seven years has led me to become the Vice President of Clinical Operations at Aura Biosciences, a late-stage bio-tech company pioneering a first-in-class technology to treat a wide variety of solid tumor types. In this role, I lead our clinical operations team in running clinical trials from first-in-human studies to global multi-million dollar phase 3 clinical trials for approval with the FDA. It's been a great experience so far, a highlight being when we launched the company on the Nasdaq stock exchange last year.

From Sunny Coast to the Big Apple

My teenage dream was to pursue a career in professional sports, either as an athlete or in elite performance, so I chose to study a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science at UniSC not only because I was a local, but because of the uni’s growing reputation for innovation and commitment to the student experience. It was when I took a course called Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and Exercise Prescription that I had a 'lightbulb moment’. I realised that if I went via a more clinical route, I could potentially change the lives of those with various physiological issues and diseases through exercise and new clinical developments. This led me to do an honours degree followed by a PhD, focusing on cardiovascular and exercise physiology with supervisor extraordinaire, Associate Professor Chris Askew. Chris is now a mentor, colleague and one of my dearest friends and confidants.

Thanks to Chris and the university, I was afforded many fantastic opportunities including work placements with the Brisbane Broncos, research opportunities with the Australian Institute of Sport, and running clinical trials at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. Undertaking a PhD is an enormous commitment but saying ‘yes’ to the opportunities presented to me, I believe gave me the foundation and ultimately the confidence to set me up for this NYC adventure.

Be eager, be humble, be open

For those thinking of a career outside of academia after doing a PhD, I say go for it! As you progress through your PhD journey, my advice is to be eager, humble and open. Ensure that aspects of your research have immediate, relevant applications to your chosen industry, connect with industry partners, take on project work or even intern/volunteer where possible to gain as much experience as you can and add it to your resume. You never know where it might take you.


Brad Stefanovic representing Aura Biosciences at Nasdaq

Brad Stefanovic

Brad Stefanovic completed his PhD in 2013 in cardiovascular physiology following his bachelor and honours degrees in Sport and Exercise Science at UniSC. Seven years ago, Brad arrived in NYC for a two week holiday adventure and hasn't looked back. Brad is now the Vice-President of Clinical Operations at Aura Bioscences, New York City.

Brad Stefanovic in New York City
Brad embracing the New York City lifestyle.
Brad Stefanovic representing Aura Biosciences at Nasdaq
Brad at the launch of Aura Biosciences on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.
Brad Stefanovic and Dr Chris Askew
Brad catching up with Associate Professor Chris Askew, his first visit home to Australia in four years.

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