Rana Quraishi was going to be a scientist.
Her mother was a psychologist and her father, who specialized in pesticide toxicology, worked for the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health.
Quraishi pursued the family profession, as was expected, but didn't want a career in a lab or classroom like her parents. Instead she found her own niche in the field.
As director of new ventures at University of Maryland, Baltimore, Quraishi works with researchers and entrepreneurs to advance technology discovered in university labs to a point where it can be turned into a company.
"In those days you were in the lab, you published papers. Now it's becoming so much cooler," Quraishi said. "I love the interaction between science and being able to make a tangible change in the world."
She pointed to SurgiGyn Inc., a startup that develops minimally invasive surgical devices, as one of the program's success stories. University of Maryland Ventures worked with SurgiGyn to further develop its technology, raise seed funding and build a prototype of a device designed to assist in laparoscopic hysterectomies.
Quraishi also works with students who, like her, are interested in science but not its traditional career path.
With Quraishi's support, a team of graduate students at UMB have been doing market research for SurgiGyn, to evaluate the opportunities to sell the device overseas.
"I think it's really important for students to get that exposure," she said.
Quraishi said she thinks it is important for the university to offer these types of opportunities for students because they increasingly are seeking alternatives to an academic research career path. Quraishi's family is from India, but she grew up in Iran and Canada before moving to the United States.
After earning a master's in physiology from Harvard University and a PhD in molecular biology and biochemistry from Columbia University, Quraishi went to work in finance, overseeing acquisitions and investments at firms such as GE Capital, J.E. Seagram and American Express.
An opportunity to work with a startup that was developing memory improvement drugs brought Quraishi back to her science roots.
As a senior advisor and chief financial officer for Helicon Therapeutics, Quraishi wrote the company's business plan and helped raise $6 million.
Quraishi still has an apartment in New York City, where she lived before moving to Baltimore, and often spends weekends there with her adult daughters, going to shows and perusing museums.
A self-described history buff, Quraishi has found plenty in Baltimore to keep her busy during her free time, too.
She likes the city's architecture and old streets, and said she could spend hours at the Walters Museum. The Medieval art is her favorite.
"It's so spiritual," she said.
Title: Director of New Ventures, University of Maryland, Baltimore
Education: Bachelor's degree, Barnard College; master's degree in physiology, Harvard University; doctorate in molecular biology and biochemistry, Columbia University
Family: Two daughters, ages 18 and 26
Hobbies/interests: Yoga, travel, history