Fall 2019 Newsletter

Message from the CEO

“Bridging graduate-level research expertise and Pittsburgh’s emerging startup sectors”

This tagline was coined by the prior year’s executive board to succinctly summarize 4RS’ mission and vision.  In many ways, 4RS’ 5th year was marked by new initiatives designed to achieve this goal more completely.  From increasing member engagement, improving data utilization, and developing new business partnerships, 4RS’ impact and sustainability have increased notably due to the efforts of the board to enact our goals. We remain committed to making participation in 4RS a highlight of your graduate or postdoctoral studies.

With our partnership with the Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse (PLSG) continuing to flourish, we have been able to engage with more organizations that could serve as key resources and partners in support of our future growth.  Some of the details for these agreements have yet to be finalized, but I look forward to sharing more information with you in the upcoming months!  As many of you know, a major undertaking for 4RS over the past year was to reinstate the Pittsburgh Innovation Case Competition in collaboration with the Carnegie Mellon Graduate Consulting Club (CMGCC).  I would be hard-pressed to find another initiative that so perfectly embodied the tag-line set out by the board a year ago.  Because of many individuals’ hard work, we have attained the highest funding levels ever for the competition, recruited teams to participate from as far as NYC, and engaged with numerous local and national organizations to bring top-notch networking for the selected participants.  I am eager to see the fruits of the planning committee’s labor come to fruition on October 26th!  Thank you to everyone who helped make this competition happen!

As was true last year, the current board has ambitious targets for growth and investment in the upcoming year that we hope will bring more high-impact projects, exciting professional development events with noteworthy speakers, and expansion of both members’ and the organization’s professional network. 

The board will be hosting a Town Hall gathering October 17th in BST South 123 from 5:30 to 7pm.  Please come to share your thoughts on 4RS’ future directions and ask the board any questions you have.  We have hired a professional photographer to take headshots for all interested members.  We will also be taking sign-ups for newly designed 4RS-branded merchandise – be sure you don’t miss out!

I am incredibly grateful for your continued dedication to 4RS’ mission.  Your time and participation makes 4RS truly unique.  I am honored to serve you all in this position and hope that 4RS membership enables you achieve your professional and entrepreneurial goals.


Christopher Chuckran

Chief Executive Officer

New Board Members

We would like to thank the outgoing board members for their contributions to 4RS this past year.  Two of these members, Rebecca Gerth (CFO) and Emily Russell (COO) have successfully defended their Ph.D. dissertations and have moved on to the next step of their careers.  Jillian Weeks (CPDO), Sherin David (CMO), and Dylan Royston (VP, Business Development) are also stepping down and we would like to thank them all for their commitment to improving the 4RS organization.  Incoming board members are Kyle Sylakowski (CFO), Amanda Henton (COO), Sarah Najjar (CPDO), and Darius Becker-Krail (CMO).  Additionally, the board identified a need for a new position of Chief Information Officer (CIO), and this role has been filled by Muying Wang.  We are pleased to welcome these enthusiastic new board members!

Thank You 2019 PMs and Teams

Since November 2018, 4RS completed 6 projects - including 4 engagements with the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and 1 internal engagement. We would like to thank William Tennant, Sam Herron, Yevgenia Monisova, Liza Bruk, Alp Asan, and Azia Evans for serving as project managers and committing their valuable experience, time, and leadership. We also thank all the consultants who were staffed on these projects for providing their time and insight, and enabling 4RS to continue providing innovative solutions to our clients.

We had 2 recruitment cycles this year through which we recruited 52 members to the organization. We thank members of the board, especially Ethan Bassin and Sam Herron, for developing training materials including case studies and presentation guidelines that serve to orient incoming members to the thought process and work culture during bootcamp. We would also like to thank Nikki Naim, Muying Wang, Taylor Courtney, Brittany Durgin, Kyle Sylakowski, Emily Russell, Chris Chuckran, Amanda Henton, and Sam Herron for serving as project managers during bootcamp.

Welcome to our New Members

We’d like to formally welcome all our members that joined the organization over the Spring and Summer 2019 recruitment cycles! A big thank you to new members Manish  Aryal, Ashlee Greene, Mark Murdock, Manoj Chelvanambi, Samuel Duvall, Megan Cala, Adolfo Frias, Azia Evans (consultant and project manager), Muying Wang (consultant, project manager, and CIO), Angela Hinchie, Lisa Beppu, and Allison Eckmann for already having served on engagements since joining the organization this earlier year. We appreciate your commitment!

Member Achievements

We congratulate 4RS members for completing their Ph.D. training and obtaining employment at several prestigious organizations.  Former CFO Rebecca Gerth began her role as Research Sales Engineer at Ripple LLC.  Former CEO Chelsea Merkel began a position as Associate Consultant for Highmark.  Former CPDO Jingming Chen is starting as a Consultant in the Life Sciences division at Deloitte.  Business Development Associate Adam Chin will work as a Regulatory Consultant and Reviewer at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  

Client Spotlight

This past Summer, 4RS completed an exciting 6-week project with Impact Proteomics – a Carnegie Mellon based startup with an innovative high-yield protein sample preparation technology for proteomics applications. Through conducting extensive market research and comprehensive competitive analyses, our team provided recommendations to assist Impact Proteomics in navigating the next stages of bringing their sample preparation kit to market. Most notably, our work helped identify key strengths that set Impact Proteomics apart from competition and recognize new attainable markets for future endeavors. We wish Impact Proteomics the best of luck moving forward!

Professional Development

4RS hosted an impressive amount of professional development events this year.  Speakers from an array of industry careers gave seminars on the following topics: boutique consulting, entrepreneurship, medical writing, capital fundraising in biotech, and experiences as an early-stage startup.  There was also an educational seminar about consulting careers in general, as well as a McKinsey information session.  We hosted workshops to develop professional skills like networking and writing a resume/cover letter.  Finally, a 4RS alum offered a 4-part seminar series about project management, including an introduction to project management careers and steps to getting a PMP certification. 

Thank you to Jillian Weeks for her hard work in organizing these events!

Pittsburgh Innovation Case Competition 2019 Highlight

We at 4RS would like to take a moment to highlight the immensely successful completion of PICC 2019 on Saturday, October 26th. Twelve teams of non-MBA graduate and professional students competed in a case competition for a grand prize of $4000 - judged by an amazing team of professionals from McKinsey, Deloitte, BCG, BNY Mellon, UPMC, and Highmark Health! While the grand prize was ultimately awarded to team "Inspector Graduates" based out of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), we are incredibly proud of the 2nd place win by Team "Pentalution" - a team of four 4RS consultants (Manish Aryal, Sam Herron, Angela Hinchie, and Nicole Martucci) and 1 CMU student (Aya Nour)! Taking home a prize of $2000, Team Pentalution was praised for the detail of their analysis, ingenuity, and communication of their pitch - all skills acquired through their 4RS training and masterfully executed in competition. We couldn't be more impressed by Team Pentalution's performance and we hope you'll join us in congratulating them!

For a more in depth overview of the event, be on the lookout for an official newsletter follow-up from the PICC 2019 committee!

Social Spotlight

In addition to the exciting work we do through 4RS, we also get to have a lot of fun and meet great people! This August we enjoyed the last of Pittsburgh’s beautiful summer weather with a get-together at Hofbräuhaus – so much fun! Thank you to all who came out to make that social event a success. If you didn’t have the opportunity to join us, we hope to see you at our next event!


Winter 2018 Newsletter

Message from the CEO

Welcome to 4RS’ 5th year! It’s an exciting time to be a part of our organization – we have a new board, a continuing partnership with the Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse, and many exciting professional development opportunities. As our membership and resources continue to grow, the board is committed to making participation in 4RS a highlight of your graduate or postdoctoral studies. We have ambitious targets for growth and investment in the upcoming year that we hope will bring more high-impact projects, exciting professional development events with noteworthy speakers, and expansion of both members’ and the organization’s professional network.

A specific goal of mine is to unify our wonderfully diverse and talented membership behind the 4RS brand. We are comprised of accomplished scientists from numerous disciplines who share the common goal of increasing our skills and experiences outside the lab. But because of our array of backgrounds and busy schedules, membership can fail to offer an integrated sense of community. With initiatives to increase member engagement, events (both professional and social), and marketing, we hope to translate our vision of 4RS’ culture into reality. Please see more of our key upcoming changes and new resources at the end of this newsletter.

The board will be hosting a Town Hall gathering November 29th in Scaife 1101 from 5:30 to 7pm. Please come to share your thoughts on 4RS’ future directions and ask the board any questions you have. For extra incentive, we have hired a photographer to take headshots for all interested members.

I am incredibly grateful for your continued dedication to 4RS’ mission. Your time and participation makes 4RS truly unique. I am honored to serve you all in this position and hope that 4RS membership enables you achieve your professional and entrepreneurial goals.


Christopher Chuckran, C.E.O

Incoming board

We are thrilled to update our readers on everything that’s happened at Fourth River Solutions since the last newsletter in December 2017. First and foremost, we have a brand new executive board led by CEO, Chris Chuckran, who previously served as VP of Business Development. Ethan Bassin and Dylan Royston worked with Chris as Business Development Associates and are now Co-VPs of Business Development. Song-My Hoang is continuing on in her position as CHRO. Emily Russell, Jillian Weeks, Rebecca Gerth and Sherin David served as consultants at 4RS and currently hold the positions of COO, CPDO, CFO and CMO, respectively. We take this opportunity to formally thank the previous members of the board for providing an enormous amount of support to the current members and ensuring a smooth transition.

Thank you 2018 PMs and Teams

4RS completed 12 engagements in total since December 2017. We’ve continued to work closely with the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse through the partnership established in 2017, having completed 7 projects with them since the start of 2017. We appreciate the time put in by the teams staffing engagements over the past year and project managers for providing the time, insight and leadership to those projects.

We completed two recruitment cycles over Fall 2017 and Summer 2018 through which we recruited 33 graduate students and post-doctoral trainees to our organization. This past summer recruitment cycle saw marked changes to the design of Bootcamp 2.0. Addition of a 2-week team-based business case allowed new recruits to exercise effective teamwork and leadership skills while developing consulting methodologies. As a result, new members experienced the team-oriented work culture that is typical of consulting engagements at 4RS and other organizations. We appreciate the efforts put in by previous and current board members for the planning and execution of the training modules during the training process.

Member achievements

Members of 4RS participated in the Randall Family Big Idea competition and represented 4 teams that advanced to the final round. Former 4RS CHRO, Yolandi van der Merwe’s team proposed an ocular injectable therapeutic to treat blindness and won 2nd Prize for the idea. Yolandi graduated earlier this year and is now Senior Consultant at Navigant. Jingyao Wu, previously a 4RS Business Development Associate, graduated this past year and now works as a consultant at McKinsey. Former CFO, Ali Nagle, joined Tempus Labs as Clinical and Research Liason after completing her PhD training.

Client Spotlight

Former client, Heart I/O, has had a number of key successes since 4RS completed a project for them in summer 2017 including - starting phase 1 clinical trials, winning the PDMA Pitch competition, and reaching the finals in numerous additional competitions. Join us in congratulating Heart I/O (and their CEO, Utkars Jain, and CSO, Adam Butchy, who are both currently 4RS members) on these impressive achievements!

Professional Development

We continue to strive to provide high-value career development and networking opportunities to our members through professional development events. We have organized several events this year including workshops ranging from how to deliver an effective elevator pitch to designing an effective business resume. Additional industry-focused informational sessions from successful entrepreneurs, such as PLSG’s Alan West, also provided unique perspective to our membership. We also have recurring fireside chats and happy hours where members of 4RS meet up to discuss topics revolving around 4RS’ business operations. Upcoming sessions will focus on how to serve as an effective PM. In addition, we organize case practice sessions every week for members that are interested or in the process of applying for jobs at consulting firms.

Fourth River Solutions Newsletter 2.0

Well, dear readers, we are keeping our promise of continuing to update you about everything 4RS has been up to with yet another newsletter. And as the holiday season is upon us, we want to say just how thankful we are for our members past and present and all the great things they have achieved. Here are some of the highlights from the past few months:

4RS was able to complete a large number of external engagements and a few internal engagements since the last publication of our newsletter. We would like to thank our PMs for leading a total of 7 external projects to success.  Additionally, since beginning our partnership with the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG), we have been able to complete four additional projects through that partnership. We are also happy to announce that due to efforts of our members we were able to compile important resources about the application cycles and corporate culture of many major consulting firms across the nation. Lastly, we would like to thank those individuals who served as PMs during the training process that is essential to ensuring the success of our new members.

Speaking of new members, the past year brought in an unprecedented number of new applicants to 4RS, and we would like to congratulate all of them who managed to successfully make it through our rounds of Bootcamp. We had 23 members successfully join our ranks in the fall of 2016 and an additional 20 members join in the spring of 2017. Many of these members have gone on to work on our projects, lead projects, and even take over leadership positions in 4RS.

Not only are our members doing great work for 4RS, they are achieving great things outside of our organization. 4RS chaired the 4th Pitt Health Innovation Case Competition this past April, the focus this time being on gene editing. Several of our members rose to the occasion and went on to take home some pretty sweet prizes on the day of the event. We would also like to recognize our members who participated on teams that placed highly within Cohort 5 of Blast Furnace and the Michael G. Wells Competition in October.

You may have noticed a lot of changes have taken place on the 4RS website over the past year. We have worked hard to respond to your input and revamp the design overall in order to make it more user-friendly both for our clients and members, while maintaining a professional aesthetic. The website now features more information about our origins, our member base, the training that we offer, and the types of services we provide. We have also made it easier to get in touch with us and receive regular updates.

Our final tidbit of news from this past year is about the partnership that we have formed with the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. The partnership provides not only a steady flow of engagements on which 4RS consultants can gain business experience, but also provides enhanced training in the form of seminars and workshops by expert PLSG staff. Thus far, this partnership has only been a success, providing us with multiple new projects and accolades from clients and PLSG executives alike. We are excited to see it continue into 2018 and beyond.

Inaugural Fourth River Solutions Newsletter

We are proud to present the Inaugural Fourth River Solutions Newsletter.

This will be the first of many future installments that keep our members and our followers in the loop as to our operations throughout the year. We are hoping these newsletters will help to highlight the accomplishments of our members, as well as to shed light on new opportunities for leadership and new partnerships. First, let's review what we accomplished this past fall.

Our group was able to complete three external and two internal engagements during the Fall Semester last year. During this time, some of our more senior members also worked to train 12 new consultants from the summer hiring cycle. Many of these new members have already come to be staffed on projects since that time. 

Additionally, our recruitment efforts in the fall were so successful that we had to split our newest recruits into two separate training sessions, the first of which finished at the end of December and the second finishing in February.

Speaking of training, eleven of our members who are interested in leadership within 4RS had the opportunity to attend an interactive workshop on client interactions in November. This workshop focused on how to handle difficult conversations with clients and how to interpret a client's needs.  While it was certainly challenging to try and broach these conversations, even in the hypothetical, our members walked away with more tools in their belts for future interactions with clients and their own PIs. 

Not only are our members doing great work with 4RS, they are achieving great things outside of our organization and contributing to the rich entrepreneurial environment that we are a part of. Our members have not only competed in but have achieved great success in the Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh), The Money Table, and Cohort 4 of Blast Furnace

So what can you expect to see from 4RS in 2017? 

  • More projects: We are currently working to set up a number of projects on which we can staff many of our eager new consultants. We are also hoping to make new partnerships within the city of Pittsburgh and continue to expand our reach and brand recognition. 

  • Website Updates: The addition of a newsletter page to our website is just one of the many changes you will see in upcoming months. We want to make our website more user-friendly for both our members, as well as potential clients. 

  • PHICC 2017: We are once again spearheading the planning of the Pitt Health Innovation Case Competition. This year's competition will take place on April 21st. Visit our PHICC 2017 tab for more information. 

  • Seminars and Workshops: We are also working to set up more seminars and workshops for our members related to career opportunities and professional development.