Faces of IMI: Ortensia Qendro

Woman in front of tree

February 23, 2024

Ortensia (Tessa) Qendro is the Program Coordinator for the Master of Biotechnology program, a role she recently transitioned to from the Program Assistant role. After graduating from the University of Toronto, Tessa became certified as an ELP instructor and joined the School of Continuing Studies where she worked mainly with international students. In 2017, she moved to UTM and worked with the Department of Student Life in Recreation and Physical Education as a Membership Assistant - a role that greatly expanded her communication and community-building skills, and drove her passion for health and wellness.  

Tessa joined IMI in 2019 as the Program Assistant for the MBiotech program and has been an integral member of the team. She has developed a robust portfolio within the program, from organizing events  to building meaningful connections with students and alumni. She is a dedicated member of the MBiotech family and is adored and admired by the students and alumni. Max Brant, a senior MBiotech student told us “Tessa is one of the most caring people I know. She always has her door open and is willing and excited to chat with students. On many occasions, Tessa would be one of the first people I reach out to - whether I’m celebrating an accomplishment, in need of advice, or if there is a problem that needs to be solved. Tessa makes us feel like we’re part of a family, which is why we all affectionately call her “Momma Tessa”. My experience in MBiotech would be vastly different without her!” 


Your experience at U of T began as a student and has expanded through your professional roles. What is it that keeps you so connected?

I am a proud alumna and devoted member of the U of T community. I love the culture of innovation, inclusivity, and excellence and I am grateful to be a part of an institution that is forever excelling in all aspects of higher education. 

MBiotech is a niche program that attracts students from diverse educational and professional backgrounds. Tell us about the different streams within the program and the types of careers your students pursue post-grad. 

MBiotech has two streams - Biopharma and Digital Health Technologies. The Biopharma stream started in 2001 and prepares science students for careers in the Pharma industry with some of the top employers in Ontario. These students go through one year of courses and professional training and another full year of valuable internship experience. 

The DHT stream is newer and is now on its third cohort. These students come with more of a data analytics background and have diverse training in health information technologies, data analysis, software, and data security. DHT leads to very interesting careers in health care, consulting, and with data science departments of major Pharma companies. 

What do you enjoy most about working at IMI? 

IMI is a very warm, family-oriented institute, and this culture of support and inclusivity is what I love the most. We have an open door policy and everyone is always willing to chip in and lend a hand. If you are ever stuck on what you are doing you are sure to find the answer to your problem in the office next door. The many fun social and professional development events are what bring us together and I love participating in them. IMI feels like home and I feel like I truly belong here. 

What are you most excited about in your new role and what will change for you with the transition? 

In my new role, I am most excited about the opportunity to continue being part of the program I have worked for over the past five years and have grown to love. Specifically, I am thrilled about two things- welcoming the new cohort and celebrating the graduation of the Class of 2024.  

With this transition, I anticipate a significant change in my level of involvement in decision-making processes. I look forward to being more actively engaged in shaping the direction of the program's many initiatives. This includes outreach efforts to our alumni, planning new events, and developing strategies to recruit future cohorts of MBiotech students. I am excited to contribute my ideas and expertise to drive the program forward and positively impact its growth and success. 

What do you do in your spare time?  

My free time is filled with quality family time and activities. I have a loving husband, two amazing young daughters, and a sweet fun-loving puppy.  I love being social, so my weekends are filled with extracurriculars and sports commitments for the girls and many walks with my beautiful pup. When I have a bit of time, I love to curl up with a good mystery book.