2024 Best & Brightest Business Major: Jacob Williams, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)  

Jacob Williams          

University of California-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Berkeley grad, consulting maestro, cancer slayer, healthcare pioneer, driven by curiosity, sculpting futures with innovation and unstoppable spirit.”

Fun fact about yourself: I finished my last two years of high school in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Hometown: Santa Barbara, California

High School: United World College in Mostar (UWC Mostar)

Major: Molecular & Cell Biology (Immunology & Molecular Medicine) and Business Administration (Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program)

Minor: n/a

Favorite Business Course: UGBA 154 – Power and Politics in Organizations

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:


  • Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Haas Student Body Government, HBSA)
  • Founder and Co-President (Atlas Strategy Group, a student-run, biotechnology-focused consulting organization)
  • NIH-MARC Fellow and Undergraduate Researcher in Cancer Immunotherapy (DuPage Laboratory, UC Berkeley)
  • Director of Operations (Robinson LSBE Student Board)
  • Project Manager at Novartis (Berkeley Business Society, student-run consulting organization)
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) (Berkeley Free Clinic)
  • Volunteer EMT and AHA CPR Instructor (Berkeley Medical Reserve Corps)
  • Executive Consultant in the Office of the President (ASUC, L&S Student Body Government)
  • Haas External International Case Competition Team (Competed Winter 2022 and Fall 2023)


  • 1st Place Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Capstone Presentation, Fall 2023 (Issued by Mark Robinson, Founder of the UC Berkeley Robinson LSBE Program)
  • Business and Management Case Competition (BMCC) 2023 Best Speaker Award (Issued by the Universidad Panamericana in Guadalajara, Mexico)
  • 1st Place Poster Presentation in Biological Sciences, Microbiology, Immunology at the 2023 Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM (Issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Science Foundation)
  • Harvard Amgen Scholarship 2023 (Issued by Harvard University and the Amgen Foundation)
  • American Association of Immunologists (AAI) 2023 Young Scholar Award (Issued by the American Association of Immunologists)
  • 2022 Genentech National Outstanding Student Award (Issued by Genentech)
  • Outstanding Poster Presentation in Immunology (Issued by the American Society for Microbiology at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) MARC Fellowship (Issued by the National Institutes of Health)
  • Certificate of Recognition 2021 (Issued by UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ and Vice Chancellor of Administration Marc Fisher)

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Chan Zuckerberg Biohub & UCSF – DeRisi Lab (San Francisco CA, Infectious Disease Initiative Intern, 2021)
  • Mayo Clinic – Sleep and Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab (Rochester MN, Clinical Researcher, 2021)
  • McKinsey & Company (San Francisco CA, Sophomore Summer Business Analyst, 2022)
  • Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard (Cambridge MA, Harvard Amgen Scholar and Visiting Researcher, 2023)

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company (New York, NY, Business Analyst)

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? Understanding the world through a multiplicity of definitions and perspectives often allows people to ask more critical questions than studying or utilizing a single discipline. Now, every time I try solving new problems, whether it be in consulting or my research in cancer immunotherapy, I always start broad. I also ask if intuition across the many disciplines I consider myself part of could inform the experiments I do, the data points I pay attention to, and ultimately, the value-add of the answer I hope to provide.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? In practice, I view business as a platform for amplifying my dreams and passions. One day, I hope that my research and approach to understanding various mechanisms that drive tumorigenesis and cancer result in therapies that ultimately better the quality of life for patients in treatment. Thus, advice I’d give to students looking to major in a business-related field is to ask yourself “What dreams am I amplifying? How could business serve as a platform for empowerment and allow me to spearhead meaningful change in the world?”

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? The ways in which the lessons I’ve learned have impacted my capacity for navigating almost every aspect of my life. Before studying business, it was an abstract concept that involved Excel spreadsheets, suits, and defined lines of what people could be. In reality, it’s far more and often most impactful when people dare to go far outside the parameters of “traditional” – a culture Haas and the student body at UC Berkeley encourages on a daily basis.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? Nothing. I have had the time of my life in college. Challenging at times, always rewarding.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? Founding Atlas Strategy Group (ASG), a student-run consulting organization – dedicated to helping biotechnology companies (our clients) “navigate complex issues with novel solutions” – has been one of the greatest honors and achievements of my time at UC Berkeley.

The original goal of founding ASG was to give my peers and myself a platform to explore diverse interests in the biotechnology industry and fundamentally become better integrated as a community through this shared experience. Since then, it has grown to be something significantly more impactful over time. Serving as co-president for the past year has taught me the power in simply facilitating opportunities for others and the value of community when the culture it’s built within is composed of mutual respect, ambition, and an aspiration to be nothing short of excellent. Every student who has joined has become a leader within our community. From client feedback, they have provided an incredible value-add and asset to the projects we’ve chosen to pursue. It has been a profound honor being part of this incredible community of intellectuals who overtime have become some of my closest friends at UC Berkeley. I am immensely proud of everyone who has been part of building Atlas alongside me and even more excited to see where the future leaders of the organization take it.

Which classmate do you most admire? Audrey Lynn Cui, LSBE Class of 2024 and co-president of Atlas Strategy Group. I find myself in constant admiration of her fierce leadership, an inspiring approach that embraces excellence with sincere compassion for everyone around her. Working with, empowering, and ultimately learning from her has been an absolute honor. She makes me a better human and I have no doubt that the world is a better place because she is in it.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My mom. When I was younger, my mom told me “Jacob, you can be anything you want to be in life, as long as you’re the best at it.” Many of my peers to date have told me I interpreted this a bit too literally. Albeit, I believe it instilled in me an undying passion and mindset that allows me to be the best version of myself in anything I commit to. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, and why you’re here – it only matters that you relentlessly fight for what you believe in, coupled with a genuine intention to do what’s right. While my mom is no longer with us, she continues to inspire me every single day and I continue to thank her for my enduring success in life.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Attaining my MD-PhD and spearheading clinical trials in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Combined, I hope to build my own biotechnology start-up one day, to generate a sustainable enterprise that makes scientific discoveries in my lab accessible to the world and hopefully, better the human condition and quality of life for patients who receive these therapeutic interventions.

What made Jacob such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024

“Lots of people say they want to cure cancer. But I believe that Jacob Williams can actually do it! He is an ambitious, driven individual who is uniquely positioned to tackle the issues of novel drug discoveries and their equitable distribution from both a business-oriented and a scientific perspective.

Even before his undergraduate career officially began, Jacob was already conducting original cancer immunotherapy research in the lab of UC Berkeley Professor Michel DuPage, work that has led to several award-winning conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications. Jacob brings his astounding intellect and work ethic to bear on some incredibly complex research questions, re-imagining experimental paradigms with the independence and originality of a postdoctoral scholar. Jacob is an out-of-the-box thinker, and he has sought out and secured a variety of prestigious internships at Mayo Clinic, Harvard University, Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, and McKinsey & Company to support his increasingly interdisciplinary worldview. Each time, he returns to campus with fresh perspectives and technical skills that enrich his academic and scientific pursuits. On top of all of this, Jacob has also prioritized improving the opportunities and experiences available to his fellow students on campus.

After graduation, Jacob will return to McKinsey & Co. to gain additional experience in clinical trial strategies that will undoubtedly inform his later work as an MD-PhD physician-researcher. It is an honor to write in support of Jacob, especially when the list of other mentors he could have tapped for this task includes top executives and Nobel Prize hopefuls from “big name” companies and institutions. Wherever he goes, people are drawn to Jacob’s intelligence, his hard work, and his palpable passion for making the world a better place. In this sense, asking what makes Jacob Williams an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024 is too small a question! Jacob is truly a generational talent, and I cannot wait to see what invaluable additions he makes to the world at large.”

Alexis Shusterman, Ph.D.
Lecturer in Organic Chemistry
UC Berkeley, College of Chemistry

“Jacob demonstrates a rare balance of exceptional academic and emotional intelligence – he is brilliant in the classroom and deeply respected as a student leader and a campus changemaker.  Jacob is a part of one of our most demanding and selective dual-degree programs, and has excelled within both degree tracks of Molecular and Cell Biology and Business Administration. He has a passion and aptitude for cancer research and he has an ability to translate complex subject material into accessible terms, which culminates into presentations that are comprehensive, concise and on-point. Equally impressive, Jacob is a natural leader – he has an ability to quickly assess a situation and create solutions that are strategic, inclusive, and effective, uplifting others and catalyzing substantive change. He has been a thought partner and an advocate for timely and important initiatives within our undergraduate programs, ensuring that the student experience is examined and considered. In his spare time, he has launched a student organization, mentored younger students in his program, and been an active participant in our external case competition program (bringing home awards and lessons learned from two external case competitions). Jacob’s legacy will live on in the LSBE program and at Haas long after he has graduated – he has worked tirelessly to foster a more inclusive community, and has made a deep impact on his classmates, administration and faculty.”

Emma Hayes Daftary, M.S.W.
Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs
Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley 

“I came to know Jacob Williams through his impressive growth during the capstone course in the Robinson Life Science Business & Entrepreneurship Program. Jacob worked with his peers to assist early-stage life science companies in refining their business models for clinical and commercial success. His ability to leverage his dual degrees in molecular biology and business stood out as he communicated complex concepts across disciplines. Jacob’s active engagement in class discussions and leadership in group work modeled the qualities we aim to nurture in our students as future life science leaders. In this course and in his many other endeavors at Cal, Jacob’s contributions have significantly enriched the learning experience for everyone involved, making him an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024, and a fitting nominee for this recognition.”

Matthew Grennan, Ph.D.
Robinson Chancellor’s Chair and Faculty Co-Director, Robinson LSBE Program
Associate Professor, Economic Analysis & Policy and Entrepreneurship & Innovation Groups
Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley 


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