How a BME Became Enthralled with Business

Name: Neil Philip O’Donnell

Year: Class of 2012

Hometown: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Area of Study: Biomedical Engineer (Major)/ Entrepreneurship and Management (Minor)


When I first came to Johns Hopkins campus as a freshman in Biomedical Engineering, I had little interest in business and finance. I like many (wrongly) assumed that Hopkins only had great opportunities in medicine. Yet, in the fall of my freshman year, I took a business course to begin to complete my distribution requirements. I regard this decision as the most important that I have made while at Johns Hopkins University. By taking the class Business and Engineering Management in my freshman year, I not only learned about how firms turn new technologies into commercially viable products, but also the myriad of opportunities within Johns Hopkins Center for Leadership Education.

After learning more about the CLE, I signed up for Save the Future, a Baltimore based not-for-profit group which teaches Baltimore High School Students the fundamentals of Business and Economics. As I tutored my high students in the basics of banking and investments, I realized that I had a zeal for business that I had never really pursued. I interviewed to become the Vice President of Save the Future. The founder of the club, Luke Kelly-Clyne, saw my brimming passion for finance and chose me for the position. This leadership position has been an amazing opportunity to enrich Baltimore and enhance my knowledge of business and investment. During every session, the high school students will ask me a question for which I have no answer, like “how exactly do you get a credit score?” Ultimately, these pointed questions asked by Baltimore high school students encouraged me to further develop my knowledge of the business lest I be left dumbfounded. I decided to expand my knowledge of business by obtaining a minor in Entrepreneurship and Management.

The business courses at Johns Hopkins have proven to be my favorite. In the course Introduction to Business, Professor Lawerence Aronhime taught me why companies exist and how they are structured to maximize profits while reducing risk. One of the main projects for Introduction to Business involved creating our own business plans. At first I came up with my business idea, Dress to Impress, Inc.- a business which would provide fashion advice via text message, only to complete a required assignment. However, as I streamlined my idea, I realized that I really enjoyed developing business plans which aim to create profitable businesses. Outside of the classroom, Professor Aronhime pushed me to enhance my plan and develop an idea for a truly viable business. With Professor Aronhime’s help in my freshman year, I placed second in the Johns Hopkins Business Plan Competition with my idea for Dress to Impress, Inc. This year I plan to re-enter the competition with my business plan for SporTrade, Inc. An online enterprise which will create a liquid market for sports betting during game play. Without taking Professor Aronhime’s course, I never would have discovered my interest in creating commercially viable business plans. Furthermore in Introduction to Business, I also began to understand the dynamics of investing within the stock and bond markets.

After completing Introduction to Business, I signed up for many more extracurricular activities with the CLE, including the Marshall Salant Investment team. In high school, I had read some books on Warren Buffett the world’s most successful investor. In college, I learned how Buffett values companies by working on the Johns Hopkins’ the Investment Team. The Investment Team taught me all of the basic tools of finance from Microsoft Excel to the Bloomberg Terminal. After learning these tools and different strategies to determine the intrinsic value of companies, I ravenously searched for undervalued investment opportunities within the stock and bond markets. After two years with the investment team, I now serve as a head analyst and an executive member. We work with a portfolio of over one hundred and sixty thousand dollars. By leveraging my background in Biomedical Engineering, I determine which securities are undervalued in the biotechnology sector. This spring, I also became an executive member of the team. As an executive member, I direct each group to focus on stocks within certain sectors and make the buy and sell orders for our portfolio. This opportunity has not only made me a better investor, but also a better leader.

In addition to my work with the investment team, I have found other ways to pursue and develop my interest in business at Johns Hopkins. I am the production editor and head business writer for the Politik, a school newspaper. For the Politik, I have written many articles about American business, including an opinion piece against the proposed taxes on trading stocks and on bankers’ bonuses and an opinion piece regarding the renewal of the Bush Tax Cuts. By writing for the Politik, I am able to keep abreast of the latest developments in business and finance. I also work as a Course Assistant in Business Law I and II for the Center for Leadership Education. This position has allowed me to understand the effects of laws and regulations on business. By understanding complex concepts like shareholder lawsuits, I am better able to understand the dynamics mergers and acquisitions. Thus, my work as a Course Assistant has helped me to become a better investor and will allow me to become a better entrepreneur.

I am on track to complete my bachelor’s of science degree at Johns Hopkins in three years, and hope to obtain my master’s in biomedical engineering in my fourth year. Though my accelerated schedule is rigorous, I am happy that I became so involved with the CLE during my tenor at Johns Hopkins. In fact, my blossoming interest in business has even helped me with my lab research. As a lab researcher in the biomaterials laboratory, I have been entrusted with creating a provisional patent to protect our innovative strategy for enhancing gene therapy. Without my experience with the CLE, I would have never been offered this incredible opportunity. Thus, although I came to Johns Hopkins University to purely pursue my interest in medicine, my experiences within the CLE have entirely changed my career objectives.

After completing my master’s in biomedical engineering, I plan to attend business school to obtain a master’s in business administration. By combining my passion for engineering with my interest in business, I can innovate in the field of biomaterials and integrate this new technology into commercially viable products. Through effective engineering and successful marketing, I can ensure that my research enriches the lives of consumers across the globe. In short, after attending the Johns Hopkins University, I will be able to better engineer solutions to the problems of human life and change the world. My goals are certainly lofty, yet my experiences within Johns Hopkins and the Center for Leadership Education will help me in accomplishing my objectives.

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  1. Love it! Thank you for this post, very helpful.

  2. I, too, have an interest in pursuing BME with a hand in business, so you could imagine my excitement upon finding this article. Before reading this, I had assumed that such a plan was a bit farfetched, but now I feel more confident knowing that another student has been successful in pursuing this goal. Excellent story, and I hope to be able to pursue my goals at JHU as a freshman next year!

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