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.