INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF STEM INNOVATORS

Felicia Bogdan, research scientist at Abbott promotes STEM in our local communities.

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Jan 17 2020

When Felicia Bogdan isn't creating next-gen diagnostics for Abbott, she's busy developing the next generation of scientists. As a leader for Abbott's STEM program, Bogdan loves inspiring young people with her passion for science. In fact, it's a family tradition.

"My biggest role model growing up was my mother, a food engineer who taught at an industrial food high school in Romania," Bogdan recalls. "She took me into the lab since I was a little girl. I loved wearing a lab coat and playing with petri dishes her students were using to test for microorganisms in food."

Along with her mother's influence, Bogdan also credits her love of science to her "chemistry and physics middle school teachers [who] made science fun."

Today, Bodgan makes science fun for her 11-year-old daughter (who wants to be an Abbott scientist when she grows up) and for other young people interested in STEM careers.

From budding scientist to STEM leader

Motivated by those early science mentors, Bogdan eventually earned her Bachelor of Science degree, with a focus on chemistry and physics. She then moved from Romania to the United States, where she earned her doctorate in organic chemistry from Wayne State University in 1999.

Bogdan first joined Abbott as a senior scientist in the organic chemistry R&D team. Today, she is a principal research scientist in Abbott's core R&D process design team for the diagnostics businses.

Bogdan manages two other scientists and is an individual and team contributor in the lab, where she develops reagents — biological ingredients that detect biomarkers for diseases. These reagents are used in diagnostic kits that help doctors identify problems quickly and accurately, so they can better treat patients and potentially save lives.

Bogdan’s scientific contributions are not confined to the lab. For the past six years, she led Abbott's partnership with TEDMED, a global conference where members of the health care community shares innovations and best practices.

And, even with all this, Bogdan makes plenty of time for her passion project — inspiring young people to love STEM as much as she does.

Spreading the love with a STEM program

Bogdan is chairperson of the Lake County, Illinois, chapter of Abbott's Women in STEM network, a global employee group she helped create. She has also spearheaded and managed development of programs for several STEM initiatives for students, including:

  • iBIO Institute's STEM Girls Summer Camp, which lets girls participate in hands-on projects that represent various Abbott businesses, under the mentorship of Abbott employees.
  • Teacher as a Scientist, which hosts middle-school science teachers who are interested in experiencing a day in the life of an Abbott scientist, so they can create real-world science lessons for their students in the classroom.
  • Operation Discovery, where Abbott hosts both middle-school students and their teachers for a day of hands-on scientific discovery in an Abbott lab.

Why has Bogdan made it her mission to get kids excited about science and help develop future generations of STEM leaders?

"Because science is fun, challenging and rewarding," she says. "History has shown that science is important for the discovery of fundamental laws and the advancement of technology."

Of course, Bogdan isn't running Abbott's STEM program alone. Many of her colleagues feel just as passionate about inspiring young scientific minds.

"Over the years, many of our scientists and engineers have reached out to me expressing their interest in giving back to the community," Bogdan says. "With all of us working together on these outreach events, we're able to bring joy to kids and open their minds to the many possibilities of STEM careers."

Words of wisdom for STEM students

When working with young people, Bogdan not only aims to inspire a general love of science and engineering, but also encourages STEM students to consider careers in healthcare.

"Working in this field will help you better understand your own health and allow you to make more informed medical decisions for yourself and your loved ones," Bogdan says. "It's very rewarding to know that you are helping to create a healthier society."

For STEM students interested in healthcare, Bogdan's best advice is to seek out mentors: "Find a mentor, while in high school or college, who can give you background about technical areas in healthcare to help you decide which path to take, connect with people in healthcare in your community or via a professional network and request an informational call or meeting."

Bogdan also advises STEM students to consider joining her as a scientist at Abbott.

"Abbott has given me the opportunity to grow as a scientist and develop as a leader, to connect with scientists and engineers globally, and the privilege to share my knowledge and excitement of being a scientist with kids and spark their curiosity to explore science," Bogdan says. "I feel proud to be part of such a diverse company — one that provides holistic solutions to human health and that generously contributes to the community to make people's lives better."

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