SPARKED: A Love for Hands-On Science—Marian’s Story

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Marian Nakada

As a little girl, one of Marian Nakada’s favorite hobbies was assembling model kits of eyes and hearts. Or, you may have found her playing with the “visible woman,” a doll with removable organs designed to teach anatomy. Her bedtime stories featured Madame Curie and Florence Nightingale. Even in her earliest memories, Marian recalls her curiosity about the body and learning about female pioneers in science and medicine.

Marian’s interest in science continued to grow, and after earning a degree in biology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Pennsylvania, she began her career conducting groundbreaking antibody research. While Marian always loved hands-on science, she also saw value in learning business development, which would allow her to have a personal impact on healthcare advancement. Today, Marian is a Venture Investor for Johnson & Johnson Innovation, an area of J&J that invests in promising companies to meet healthcare needs. Marian is helping improve the lives of patients globally by funding innovation in biotechnologies.

As an Asian American woman in the male-dominated world of venture capital, Marian emphasizes the importance of education, perseverance and self-confidence. She offers this advice to all young people who wish to pursue their dreams:

  • Surround yourself with supportive mentors, whether family, teachers, friends, or colleagues.
  • Fight for what you want; if you don’t ask, you won’t get it.
  • Determine your goals and write them down, so you can more easily track and achieve them.

Marian learned these lessons on her journey from being a curious little girl painting veins on plastic models to becoming a powerful investor at one of the world’s largest healthcare companies. Just as her love of science was sparked at a young age, Marian continues to inspire young women and girls to explore technology through creative problem-solving and play, both at work and in her role as a STEM2D volunteer.