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 five years, it has proven to be transformational for participants as noticed by recruiters and the students alike. We are in the process of recruiting and selecting the 2019 Team.

The program has proven to increase emotional intelligence, a great predictor of career success than IQ. Executives from two different life science companies remarked about the program after interfacing with the PTLS students:

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

“I didn’t think that you could teach people to be leaders. They either are or aren’t. But, PTLS has completely changed my mind about that.”

How to apply

PTLS Application 2019 – 2nd Round (Word)

2019 PTLS Second Round Application Due May 15, 2019.

Program overview

Students learn by working through issues they will encounter on the job – learning to plan and execute, lead discussions, and have hard conversations. Students learn by working through issues they will encounter on the job – learning to plan and execute, lead discussions, and have hard conversations.

This program has been proven to be effective because it is not a typical class but an immersion experience where participants are treated as professionals, working in small groups which become support teams for personal growth. All aspects of the program are interwoven for reinforcement of development and learning. There is personal one-on-one coaching and access to leaders most students don’t receive. Training is unique and professional assessments are used in the process. You get help solving current challenges and with building skills to prepare for future opportunities. It is a unique opportunity for those who want to take their performance to the next level.

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 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 shorter/longer if needed for the experience. One-on-one coaching sessions and small group meetings will be conducted based on the student’s schedules. 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 Bayer. One-on-one coaching will continue this semester.

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
Student at tableIndividuals have a personal leadership coach throughout the year

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 2019-2020 program is for PhD students and post docs (and exceptional master’s level students) 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, 2018. Foundational PTLS is a pre-requisite for Advanced PTLS.

Students engage in hearty discussions with scientists and leaders in industry.

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 2018-19, we are seeking students who have significant potential post-MU and want to be a part of this elite experience.

How to apply

You can apply by completing the application at the top of this page and emailing it to Your advisor will need to email a note of support and recommendation to Loriana Sekarski as well. Qualified applicants will be interviewed for a position in the program.

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