Bristol Myers Squibb‘s Kristen Petitjean led a soil study during this pre-COVID “Science Saturdays” program, in partnership with Mercer County 4-H. Led by volunteers from the company to stimulate STEM interests in young students through hands-on experiments, the program has been running for eight years, targeting greater Trenton, NJ, and surrounding areas.


Opening doors to STEM for the next generation

Bristol Myers Squibb volunteers cultivate a passion for STEM in the curious young minds of tomorrow’s scientists

December 14, 2021     

Watching a robotic-assisted surgery live on their computer screens was clearly not a typical day in class for these approximately 150 New Jersey middle school students.  As they followed the surgeon’s skillful removal of a tumor, some covered their faces, occasionally peeking through their fingers. Others stared in astonishment. All of them furiously typed in the chat during this virtual event — their comments went something like this: 

“That is so amazing!” “I think I’ve lost my appetite.” “I didn’t know robots could do that!” “How can I become a scientist?” 

The event was part of a two-day workshop hosted by two of the Bristol Myers Squibb’s People and Business Resource Groups (PBRGs) – B-NOW (Bristol Myers Squibb Network of Women) and BOLD (Black Organization for Leadership and Development) – in partnership with New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center. After wowing (or grossing out) the students with the live surgery, company volunteers showed them some of the ways in which robotics and automation are used at to make medicines at Bristol Myers Squibb, remotely conduct lab experiments, and be the “eyes and ears” for the company’s scientists, chemists and engineers. 

“Seeing the kids’ expressions, it was absolutely priceless,” said Maria Olu Ogunyankin, a Business Insights and Analytics (BIA) R&D scientist and B-NOW member. “For many of them, this is something they may have only ever seen in the movies.”

Bristol Myers Squibb supports a wide range of activities that target students from elementary school through graduate school, paving the way for young professionals to pursue careers in STEM and find answers to the next set of complex medical challenges. The workshop in New Jersey was one of hundreds of activities that happen throughout the year as part of the company’s commitment to STEM education and awareness. The company’s STEM program is made possible by individual volunteers, the PBRGs at different company sites, and through the company’s Community Giving and the BMS for Community initiatives.

A snapshot of company STEM activity in 2021 (data as of August 2021)

A history of STEM at Bristol Myers Squibb

STEM awareness and education have long been a Bristol Myers Squibb priority. In 2018, the company formed a STEM Council to harness the expertise, experience and passion of company colleagues to focus on an enterprise-wide global STEM outreach for tomorrow’s innovators in the communities we serve and live.

“When we are deciding how to best support STEM efforts, there are many avenues to explore,” said Executive Vice President and President, Research and Early Development Rupert Vessey, who is the executive sponsor of the STEM Council. “We need to establish multiple touchpoints throughout young people’s lives to put them in a position to pursue a career in STEM. By nurturing students’ passion for STEM, we can make them aware of the multitude of opportunities that exist in the field.”

Making an impact

These efforts are all about opening doors. Bristol Myers Squibb scientists share their knowledge and expertise and pay it forward to the next generation, targeting eager young minds. Reaching vulnerable and underserved children is a particular area of focus.

A school-age breakdown of the impact the company made in 2021 (data as of August 2021).

STEM is alive in our Commitments

In 2020, Bristol Myers Squibb announced a $150 million investment over five years to accelerate five diversity and inclusion and health equity commitments — addressing disparities in healthcare, increasing diversity in clinical trials, expanding supplier diversity, enhancing employee giving to social justice organizations, and increasing workforce representation. Separately, the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation announced its own $150 million investment over five years. Read more here.

Diversity is a pillar in the company’s STEM efforts; students seeing people who look like them in professional STEM careers breaks down barriers. “I tell the students, “If I can do it, you can do it,’” said Ogunyankin.

“Through our STEM efforts, we must prioritize improving the diversity of our workforce to include more women and people from historically excluded communities,” said Vani Kodandaram, executive director, IT Business Partnering for Strategy & Business Development and STEM Council co-founder and chairperson. “Otherwise, our workforce will not represent our population or give an equal share of voice to all Americans.”

The company’s STEM efforts include Tomorrow’s Innovators, an initiative that builds a sustainable bridge for diverse talent from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to the biopharma industry. Its conception is another step toward creating an equitable future for Black talent in healthcare.

Click here to learn more about how Bristol Myers Squibb is having an impact in STEM education.

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About Bristol Myers Squibb

Bristol Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. As global citizens, we work sustainably and responsibly to create a positive impact in the communities where we live and work.