A Leg Up

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
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Christine Carberry ’82 used to wear steel-toed boots to climb two-story fermenters at a biotech start-up in Boston. As the first woman hired in their manufacturing department, Carberry drew from her undergraduate education in Biochemistry at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) to engineer a strain of E.coli, which generated the enzymes and antibodies that would later be purified into pharmaceutical drugs. “That’s how I found myself at what became one of the most successful biotech companies of all time … Biogen,” says Carberry who kept on climbing – through a variety of technical operations, strategic planning, research and development, program management, and the establishment of the company’s first European manufacturing facility – until she became the Vice President of Program and Alliance Management. And then, in the spirit of continuing to create successful enterprises, Carberry stepped down from Biogen to join EnVivo Pharmaceuticals in Watertown, MA last fall. “After thirty years,” she laughs, “I’ve come back to a start-up.”

Having found her niche down a nontraditional path for a biochemist, Carberry thrives on promoting education in the STEM fields and bringing awareness about the variety of careers available to fledgling scientists upon their graduation. During her tenure at Biogen, Carberry made the time to further her education and obtained a Master’s of Science in Innovation and Technology Management from Boston University, along with certificates in Management and Biotechnology Strategy from Harvard University. And she brings this well-rounded educational and professional experience to her service as a mentor to UNH students and others, listening to their questions and helping them navigate the many different journeys along which their degrees can take them.

“Christine is always thinking about ways she can give back – whether it is building corporate partnerships, guest lecturing, serving on the COLSA Advisory Board, or mentoring students,” says Stephanie Gillen, Director of Development for the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA) at UNH, who invited Carberry to join the Development Board that Dean Jon Wraith formed last year.  In addition to that service, Carberry established the Christine St. Martin Carberry ’82 Endowed Fund for Biological Sciences in 2005, which provides unrestricted, discretionary support for the dean as well as scholarships for students in Biological Sciences.

Carberry’s devotion to her Alma Mater underscores this Hampton native’s appreciation for the University. “I applied early decision to UNH and didn’t seriously consider any other institutions. I wanted a science career, and I knew that UNH was strong in science and agriculture,” says Carberry. “And there was the affordability. I’m a person who has always wanted to be financially independent and, with the help of my parents and working a part-time job while attending school, I was able to do something that’s almost unheard of now and graduate without any debt.”

Although Carberry looks back with gratitude for her educational experience, the process wasn’t always a pleasure. She recalls rising early in the morning to attend back-to-back classes in organic and physical chemistry for hours at a time. “After a short break for lunch, I’d be back in the lab, glancing out the window at those beautiful green lawns with all the business majors out there playing Frisbee,” says Carberry. “I had to ask myself why I was majoring in science. It’s a big commitment, and that’s important to understand when you start.” It was all worth it in the end, of course, and now Carberry champions the value of being able to apply the scientific method to a variety of problems.

“Christine’s a wonderful example of how alumni can give back in many different ways,” says Gillen. Alumni participation has both a direct and indirect impact on students during their learning process and, she says, it gives young people the opportunity to forge early relationships with successful professionals in their prospective fields. For Carberry, and other alumni like her, giving back is all about providing a leg up for students in an unseen world of possibilities.