Alumni Making an Impact: Bo Zhang

Bo Zhang (ChemE 1T4 + PEY) graduated from ChemE in 2014 before pursuing his Ph.D. at Oxford University. Pairing his interest in human biology with the analytical and problem-solving skills acquired through his engineering education, Zhang has had a successful career in the life sciences industry. He recently moved back to Toronto and currently works at AstraZeneca as a Forecasting Manager. Zhang is also eager to reengage with our community at ChemE, and is a great person to contact for students seeking PEY opportunities.


Can you tell us about your role and company? Feel free to talk about big projects you have worked on, career milestones and achievements, etc.

I recently moved back to the GTA and joined AstraZeneca as a Forecasting Manager. My role specializes in evaluating the commercial and financial performance of key cancer medicines, which supports the re-allocation of financial resources and continue to drive R&D and innovation. Prior to AstraZeneca, I worked globally in the life sciences industry supporting drug commercialization, strategic planning, venture capital, and capital markets. I moved to the UK for my post-graduate degree and completed my PhD in biomedical engineering at Oxford University.

What motivated you to pursue a career in your current field/industry, and how has your experience been working in this field/industry so far?

I have always been intrigued by the intricate workings of human biology. My background in chemical engineering has provided me with the skills to dissect individual unit operations while also understanding how they integrate into larger processes and systems. The dynamic nature of the life sciences industry captivates me as it advances our comprehension of human biology and creates essential new therapeutic solutions to enhance quality of life. I have learnt a lot and continue to enjoy supporting commercial operations and financial planning in the industry.

What skills or qualifications do you believe are crucial for success as a chemical engineer in your industry, and how did your education at ChemE contribute to your development in these areas?

I am grateful for the comprehensive education I received in chemical engineering, as it equipped me with essential tools to comprehend the world and provided me with problem-solving skills that are invaluable in a professional capacity. I distinctly recall experiencing a significant revelation after my third year, notably after completing courses in Process Control, Separations, Reactions, and Processing Engineering. For me at the time, these courses seemed to unlock a simplified yet comprehensive understanding of the material world. This knowledge has been instrumental in navigating complex systems and tackling challenging problems, both during my post-graduate research and in professional environments. My humble opinion is that I believe that chemical engineering equips us with essential technical problem-solving skills, providing students with the necessary tools to pursue diverse career paths. The key is to maintain an open mind and pursue what you are passionate about.

Can you share some insights into the industry or field your company operates in and the opportunities it offers to potential candidates?

There are numerous opportunities for chemical engineering graduates, ranging from drug discovery, optimizing clinical development pathways to manufacturing and financial engineering/investment analysis, and many more! There are a lot of opportunities to support your professional development and expand your skills into other areas, such as marketing, medical, etc.

How do you stay connected with the ChemE community as an alum, and are there any opportunities for current students or recent graduates to engage with your company? 

Having just recently moved back to the GTA, I plan to reconnect with the ChemE community and support the students and the department. My company takes in internship students in a diverse range of departments. Internship contracts can range from 4 months to 12+ months.

What advice would you give to current students or recent graduates who are starting their careers?

Be open-minded and be bold.