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Chemistry alum wins distinguished achievement award

By Hannah Ashton

Rather than being swayed by conventional markers of success such as titles and salaries, Parisa Khosropour (B.S., ‘89) advocates for the relentless pursuit of personal excellence.

“For me it’s about doing what you love because you are willing to work hard at it, and success will follow. Don’t have success as a milestone,” she said. “Success is never final and performance can always be improved. So if you focus on holding yourself to a higher standard and work with a can-do attitude, success will follow.”

Her core philosophies include ‘a resistance to complacency, a perpetual demonstration of passion for discovery and learning, and a commitment to 'paying it forward.'"

Having commenced her career at a small startup in California, which was later acquired by a globally renowned biotechnology company, she is using her retirement to invest in the future. Now an angel investor, she helps startups that have the potential to change healthcare.

Khosropour is the recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for her professional accomplishments and mentorship that has brought honor, distinction and visibility to the College of Science.

Finding the right fit

When Khosropour arrived at Oregon State from California, she started her education pursuing engineering. While taking the general education requirements, she encountered a few College of Science faculty whose enthusiasm and passion rubbed off on her.

“It’s always about your mentor, instructor, or professor and their ability to make the subject intriguing, fostering an understanding of the value and fundamental principles of everything," she explained.

She changed her degree to chemistry and ended up working part time in James White’s lab.

After graduating in 1989, Khosropour ventured to Stanford where she worked as a research assistant in clinical pharmacology, bridging the realms of biology and chemistry.

When a job opportunity arose at Diagnostic Reagents Inc., a startup company that focused on small molecule and protein monitoring, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to pursue it. When offered the role, she accepted on the condition she would be allowed to continue her research at Stanford—a condition that was granted.

For a year and a half, she worked on the research and development team at Diagnostic Reagents Inc. and spent all her evenings and weekends in the lab.

“I discovered a genuine passion for the industry—working on projects, orchestrating launches, and witnessing the process of commercialization. It resonated with me,” she shared. “I made the choice to temporarily pause my academic pursuits and delve into a career in the industry to observe how things would unfold”

Using her background in organic chemistry, she taught herself cellular immunology and assay development and successfully launched multiple assays for therapeutics and drug screening.

Diagnostic Reagents Inc. underwent significant organic growth, mirroring the trajectory of her career. The company experienced several acquisitions and ultimately became part of Thermo Fisher Scientific, a leading provider of analytical instruments, life science solutions, specialty diagnostics, and services in the fields of laboratory, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

In 2014, she became the president of the transplant diagnostics division, overseeing a team of more than 500 employees. Prior to this appointment Khosropour held several technical, operational and business leadership positions within Thermo Fisher Scientific including vice president/general manager of clinical diagnostics business from 2007 to 2012.

“As your career evolves, you must acquire proficiency in various aspects. For me, this meant mastering a different skill set such as people management, communication and delegation. I had to learn the art of motivating a team and striking a balance between team productivity and work-life harmony, ensuring delivering on business commitments and collective growth for everyone," she explained.

Embracing change, a willingness to learn, and approaching everything with a positive mindset were also crucial elements contributing to her success

“At times, receiving a title like supervisor, manager, or director may lead one to believe they must know everything,” she observed. “However, it's crucial to understand that it's okay not to have all the answers. Embrace the willingness to ask questions, be open to constant learning and consistently challenge yourself.”

What comes next?

After retiring in 2019, Khosropour redirected her energy towards giving back, volunteering her time as an advisor for startups. While many startups seek advice on business practices, a considerable number also require financial support. This led her to explore the world of angel investing.

“For me, it’s about the startup that’s really addressing a gap in today’s healthcare, whether it’s a device or therapeutics addressing a needed solution,” she said.

Recognizing the challenges facing startups today, she emphasizes the importance of preparation. Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investment is to diligently research and identify an investing group that aligns with their goals. Beyond the financial aspect, she underscores the significance of assessing what additional support and expertise a group can offer beyond a monetary contribution.

Looking forward, she plans to focus on advising and investing and hopefully traveling more.

She is excited to return to Corvallis and receive the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. “I think I spent 70% of my time in the chemistry building. OSU boasts a beautiful campus along with an excellent group of mentors and faculty. I cherish my time there and have very fond memories”