Setting Sights on Tomorrow: A Q&A with Student Entrepreneurial Fellow Trevor Lohr

June 24, 2021

Photo credit: Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona

In life, you can only look two ways, in the past or into the future. I’ve always been the one looking forward, pursuing progress, working towards self-improvement and the betterment of others. Working with Tech Launch Arizona has provided a great opportunity to combine my experiences and passions across academic, professional, and personal worlds.

-Trevor Lohr, Tech Launch Arizona Entrepreneurial Fellow

Trevor Lohr, who is studying for his master’s in finance at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management, is the latest addition to the Venture Development team at Tech Launch Arizona. Here at the university’s technology commercialization office working as an Entrepreneurial Fellow, he lends his expertise to helping budding startups in the health sciences space get their footing and prepare for entry into the market.  

But the world of startup development hasn’t always been Lohr’s path. In fact, his passion for the field is a recent development and one that he didn’t see coming.  

Being raised in rural Arizona, Lohr knew his aspirations were greater than his resources. His parents divorced when he was 2, and when his mom remarried, he found himself with 4 brothers in addition to his biological brother. His mom homeschooled the 6 of them from the time he was in the 4th grade through his sophomore year of high school.  

With his parent’s work and skills existing in fields outside of academia, and with no family members acquiring higher education, this was not something seen as imperative in his early life.  

But as he grew and started high school, he got an inkling that there was more – that he had opportunities open to him, but they were opportunities he would have to go out and get; they were not going to come to him. 

We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Trevor to explore his experience.  

TLA: What was it like growing up in Sierra Vista? 

LOHR: It had its challenges, for sure. After my mom remarried there were 6 of us brothers growing up. My mom home schooled all of us and that’s where I got my education from the 4th grade up through my sophomore year of high school.  

On top of all that, a higher education was talked about from time to time, but it wasn’t something that was discussed often; no one in my family had earned a degree, and talking about college just wasn’t really part of our culture.  

As I matured and started high school, I began to see possible pathways for myself. I played football for a local high school while I was homeschooled, but eventually traded that experience for a smaller school where I could stand out academically. In the end, only two other classmates from my graduating class went to college: my stepbrother and one other friend.  

TLA: Given your family’s history, how did you find your way to college and the University of Arizona? 

LOHR: I did well on the standardized tests, but given my family’s situation, I needed financial support. I applied to both the UA and ASU. In my junior year I put in an application for the Baird scholarship at the UA, I hit the target ACT score, and I got the scholarship and got in. But I was only 17 and my parents felt I wasn’t ready yet. I could have done it academically, but the social demands for a guy from a small town and a homeschooling background would’ve been tough.  

I thought I’d just reapply my senior year, but I didn’t get the scholarship. I remember being just destroyed when I got the news. I didn’t want to take out loans, and I seriously thought of joining the military. But an advisor recommended the Dorrance Scholarship Program that serves first-generation college students with financial need. I put in my application, passed the essay and interview rounds, and in the end, finally learned that I was going to go to college at the last minute – in May of my senior year. I was absolutely ecstatic.  

TLA: Throughout your education, you’ve been focused on STEM and the pre-med route. How has that focus evolved? 

LOHR: My journey through medicine started in my senior year of high school. I was weighing all my options. My upbringing taught me that I wanted financial stability. I wanted to be inspired. We had a family friend who was a surgeon, so I knew someone in the field who had a passion. For my first look into the professional world, medicine checked all the boxes. 

So I came here and I loved the science and the atmosphere. I loved studying physiology and being in the operating room. I graduated from the UA magna cum laude and scored well on the MCAT.  

TLA: So you had all the boxes checked to proceed on towards medical school. What changed? 

LOHR: I was on the phone with my dad, and I said, “I don’t know if I want to do this.” I was looking at the next 10 years of my life and putting these hours in. I didn’t want to do bench research or spend my time writing grants. The red flags started to go up and I realized that maybe this wasn’t the fit that I thought it was.  

So, in April ’21, I started looking at alternatives, and the fields of finance, venture capital, and startups really intrigued me. Having been a co-founder of a UA fraternity and growing it from 30 to 150 people, I learned that I had a passion for building a team and an organization. That experience consumed a lot of my time, but I loved it.  

It turned out I was scratching an itch I didn’t even know I had! 

I had been reading Think Again by Adam Grant, and in the book, he talks about how his cousin was determined to be the first in his family to go to school and become a doctor, but when he achieved that goal, he found that it wasn’t right for him after all. That was the day I decided that I needed to follow my own path. 

TLA: Once you had that realization, what were the next steps you took? 

LOHR: I dug into looking at ways people with STEM degrees can apply them to other areas. I looked at banking, investing, and venture capital. An education in finance seemed to continue to come up as the common denominator; it opens up windows to work with companies in those STEM fields, helping them grow and evolve and move forward. 

It was about that time that I got introduced to the university’s 1-year master’s in finance program at the Eller College of Management. I applied and requested funding, and got in with over half my tuition covered.  

Now I’m 23 and have a firm grasp on the scientific components, and as a TLA Entrepreneurial Fellow, I’m moving forward to round out my business experience working with life sciences startup teams.  

TLA: You mention the TLA Entrepreneurial Fellows program. How did that fit into your vision for your career path?  

LOHR: As I was looking for opportunities, I came across the program and it was exactly what I was looking for. TLA was looking for a student with experience that could be applied to helping startup companies in the therapeutics and diagnostics spaces. That’s an exact fit for my education experience, so I got the job, and now I’m learning about TLA’s processes for launching startup companies working side-by-side with Mentor-in-Residence TJ Johnson and Venture Development Manager Pedro Medrano.  

My job is supporting these startup teams, helping them with things like creating pitch decks and researching competitors and identifying acquisition targets. It’s a wide scope of work, but it’s fascinating and I’ve got these two great mentors to learn from.  

TLA: What’s next for you? 

LOHR: Well, for my future, it’s early to say. There are so many routes open to me when it comes to developing a career in finance. I need to get the experience and develop my skills. I need to build my network. I’d like to work in the world of venture development and venture capital for health sciences startups. That’s what I have an affinity for. 

I need to first pay my dues, but I’m sure I’ll find my way into the right role. For now, I’m most excited about working with these new companies and novel ideas and seeing how I can help them move out into the world.  

Interested in Becoming a Student Entrepreneurial Fellow?

In addition to the experience that TLA provides through the program, Trevor will also receive one of six $10,000 tuition scholarships provided by the Graduate College for participants in the program, with $5,000 awarded at the beginning of each academic semester. If you are a UArizona graduate student and interested in the opportunity, we invite you to inquire. 

Paul Tumarkin, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications