Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders for Science

Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders for Science (PTLS) is a program at CAFNR developed to equip an elite set of graduate students in the sciences with essential interpersonal and communication skills so that they contribute to teams at an accelerated pace. Over the past three years, it has proven to be transformational for students as noticed by recruiters. We are in the process of recruiting and selecting the 2017 Team.

People meetingIndividuals have a personal leadership coach throughout the year

All students in the 2014-15 class said their expectations were met, and 92% would recommend it to others (72% strongly recommend). These students are now better prepared to successfully lead and collaborate with others.

The program has proven to increase emotional intelligence, a great predictor of career success than IQ. As one company executive remarked who met the PTLS students,

“The students’ soft skills were WAY above average. Mizzou has great students and this program makes them better.”

How to apply

2017 PTLS Second Round Application (PDF)

2017 PTLS Second Round Applications due June 1, 2017.

Program overview

PTLS is a two-part series:

  • Foundational PTLS will prepare students with basic critical skills expected by any employer, be it academia or a business. Students will meet on average two hours per week starting at 8 a.m. (most likely on Tuesday). There will be no class during some weeks and some sessions may be a bit longer if needed for the experience. However, most will be 2 hours and periodically supplemented by a one-on-one coaching session at a different time in the week (depending on the student’s preference). Students will have notice of specific class timing at least a month in advance.
  • Advanced PTLS, held during spring semester, will be focused on preparing students for positions in industry. The emphasis will be on further refinement of communication and soft skills. This is a one-unit class. While some time will be spent on campus, there will also be a day at Monsanto. One-on-one coaching will continue this semester.
People at tableTeam-building with a corporate trainer

The program will feature:

  • Practice-oriented training with hands-on experiences, groups projects and mobile learning
  • Feedback based on a peer review and on-going coaching sessions to improve personal performance
  • Experiences with industry leaders including site visits, mentoring and networking functions

Benefits of the program

Students who complete this elite program will have a competitive advantage over their peers nationwide because they will know how to:

  • Present themselves professionally and make a positive impression
  • Influence others, work collaboratively and lead teams
  • Deal with conflict
  • Write and speak effectively
  • Be comfortable networking at a conference
  • Lead meetings
  • Manage a project
People on tourOff site visit to incubator

After PTLS, students will also understand:

  • How businesses operate (academic researchers regularly work with businesses)
  • How the commercialization and regulatory processes work
  • How to think strategically and globally
  • What are the critical issues facing businesses and the industry
  • How to think about problems from a business perspective

Students can list PTLS on their resumes and it will also appear on their transcripts. CAFNR will educate employers on what PTLS entails, so that they will be seeking out these graduates.


The 2016-17 program is for PhD students and post docs in biochemistry, bioengineering, bioinformatics, computer science, food science, mathematics, social science and plant science, or who have a faculty advisor in IPG. Other disciplines may be included upon special invitation. Preference will be given to those students who have completed one year of coursework by September 1, 2016. Foundational PTLS is a pre-requisite for Advanced PTLS.

People meetingSmall group discussions with corporate executives

Students will be selected for this program based on leadership potential, desire to participate, openness to coaching and ability to contribute to others’ experience by actively sharing in the program. We are also striving to achieve a diverse class. For 2015-16, we are seeking 15 Ph.D. students who have significant potential post-MU and want to be a part of this elite experience.

How to nominate

Faculty members and advisors can nominate a student by sending the student’s name, email and a brief explanation of why the student should be considered to:

Loriana will follow up with nominated students on the full application process.


Contact Loriana Sekarski, President, BONSAI™,, 314-540-6114