Name: Bharat Rai
Undergraduate Major and Graduation Year: Biology, 2020
Graduate School: University of Southern California (USC) Masters of Science (M.S.) Translational Biotechnology
Hometown: Camarillo, CA
Having recently graduated in 2020 with a B.S. degree in Biology, please share your experience as an undergraduate, and how did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your last year at UCR?
During my first two years at UCR, I was on the typical, strict pre-med track. I was focused on keeping up with my classes, volunteer hours at hospitals, and clubs that would allow me more opportunities to work in the community. I joined an atmospheric analysis lab by my third year where I had some exposure to research as well.
But, it wasn’t until I was spending most of my days confined in a research lab that I felt like I was learning so much about the world, yet making little to no impact in it. I realized that in my pursuit towards medical school, I was confining who I was as a person to fit the mold of what a typical pre-med student is meant to be. I was losing a sense of identity, and by this time I was merely going through the motions and uninspired with what I was doing in my life. I knew that I had more to offer and wanted to do something meaningful where I could do something on my own and allow myself to explore my own potential to the fullest.
This led me down a path of entrepreneurship where I felt I could make a difference in my community. I started with a simple tutoring business for kids in the Riverside area. And through this experience I was learning the levels of responsibility that it takes to do something on your own. This pursuit was contagious, however, as I took the lessons learned to my next idea.
Having been at UCR for three years at this time, I was well aware of the issues that students had finding parking. My friend and I had an idea on how we thought we could help fix it through an app. One day during school, we saw the Chancellor walking through quad and approached him to talk about our big plans, and he was excited and connected us to the TAPS directors which became the start of a fulfilling journey.
My senior year was filled with meeting great people on campus where I opened my eyes to all the great opportunities and resources UCR has to offer. We finally launched Pickup N’ Park to the app store, however, within a week the COVID pandemic had sent all students home and our app was put on hold. It was definitely an emotionally tolling period for myself, but after about a month of giving myself a break I started to reflect and absorb the change as it came. I realized that now I could start making connections with more schools and work on new features that can be used in the short term. So, with that I am working on creating a new version of the app that we hope to release next quarter!
How has your participation with campus programs like Launch Pad enhanced your experience as a student? Before Launch Pad, did you consider yourself as an entrepreneur?
When I was introduced to the LaunchPad I was in my infancy of becoming an entrepreneur. Before entering the program I had the desire to solve problems with innovative solutions and enact change through different services. But the LaunchPad program took that desire and allowed me to flourish as a professional. Through networking events and guest speakers, I was able to see people in the same direction as me as well as people who were much further along. It gave me the confidence to believe in myself and that if I stayed on my track so that I could accomplish the goals I set out for. Along with this, there are plenty of opportunities to receive funding like pitch competitions or accelerator programs that students can apply for. The wealth of information and resources at the LaunchPad gave me the initiative to put myself out there and see what opportunities were available.
And that is what has been introduced to me in the current program, I-Corps. Through their customer discovery 7 week program, we evaluate a working hypothesis for a defined customer segment for our product. Through their guidance and mentorship, we work to validate our idea or service through weekly interviews and market research. I have found that the process as a whole integrates my background in science and understanding of the scientific method along with my passion for entrepreneurship.
And, I feel that anyone has the potential to be an entrepreneur because, at its heart, all that means is to be a science-based problem solver. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in working on an idea to contact Mai Temraz so that you can fully utilize the resources already here on campus! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you think being an entrepreneur will impact your plans to go to medical school?
I think that since becoming an entrepreneur, I have become a more focused and diligent student and professional. Before I started with these ventures, I was always looking for a way to stand out on my medical school applications. I found that when starting something on my own, I became genuinely passionate about the work I was doing. I think this goes a long way as a medical school applicant. Often times, we do volunteer work or take on jobs as a means to an end. Entrepreneurship has expanded my world view and allowed me to work to understand issues through a different lens, and something I will carry with me moving forward. I came to realize that no matter how much good you want to do in the world, institutions are run as businesses, even in healthcare, so having a better understanding about how they operate goes a long way in becoming a well-rounded physician.
What are you currently up to?
Right now I am studying Translational Biotechnology at USC. In short, this field studies how we can design innovative therapeutics through lab research and bring them to the market in a feasible and efficient process. A part of this program is a Capstone Project where students have the opportunity to gain field experience by working in the lab, working for a biotech company, or starting their own company.
I have decided to work on a new venture called SunRais Rx Health and Wellness, that my mom actually started. Given her 25 years as a pharmacist she has come to realize that conventional medicine works to treat symptoms, whereas diseases need to be treated at their root cause. I am working on a telehealth platform that uses a behavioral psychology approach to help users create health habits and routines to take control of their preventative health. Through my masters at USC and the I-Corps program, I think that I have definitely refined my approach in venture formation, and I am grateful to be a part of both.
What advice would you offer to current students?
For any current students, I would say be bold and step out of your comfort zone. I often think back to when I was first in college and was under the impression that being a pre-med student meant that I needed to strictly follow a specific track to reach where I wanted to go. I think that by my junior year, I allowed myself to branch out to explore new options and it has only made me a stronger person as a whole.
College is a time where we are supposed to learn, and I can confidently say that in starting a business you will be constantly learning, mainly through your failures. But with that in mind, I think that it is a perfect junction in our lives to be able to make mistakes and rapidly learn from them to become a stronger person after. No one is expecting you at this point in your life to be a finished product of yourself, so if you try something new, in whatever instance of life that may be, I would say to try it and see where it takes you. Ultimately the experience alone will make you much better off for it.