Internship location: Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.
Currently employed at: Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.
PhD awarded: 09/15/2016
What are your general research interests?
My research interests lie largely in the fields of Cell Biology and Fluorescence Microscopy, with a specific interest in deciphering molecular signaling pathways through the use of high resolution biological imaging methods.
How did you identify your internship?
Through personal communication with former UO Biochemistry professor Andy Berglund. He was approached by a Scientist at Thermo Fisher who was seeking an intern with Cell Biology and Confocal Microscopy skills, so he put us in touch to see if I would be interested in doing an internship with the company.
What was your internship like? What were you responsible for? What was a typical day like?
My internship lasted approximately 4 months, and during that time I was involved in a number of projects, ranging from development of a new platform for automated immunofluorescence sample preparation to validation and testing of new and existing formulations of biological imaging reagents. I was responsible for independently driving my primary research project through collaboration with a team of local R&D Scientists and Engineers, as well as for aiding in the support of Manufacturing and Operations endeavors (testing new lots of product, providing feedback, etc.). A typical day was 8 hours of work sometime between 8 am – 6 pm, but quite busy and fast paced compared to Grad School. Aside from the above listed responsibilities as an R&D Scientist, I was also required to attend numerous daily meetings and regularly send out progress updates to my immediate supervisor and team members. In short, it was essential to carefully plan out experiments between meetings and keep up on data reporting to ensure the project doesn’t fall behind schedule.
How did your internship prepare you for your current position/career path?
The internship allowed me to gain an understanding of what it’s like to do research in an industrial setting, and most importantly it allowed me to meet people and make contacts in the company. Having specific contacts made it much easier to establish and maintain communication regarding future employment opportunities, which made the timing and transition from Grad School into a career much smoother. Once I got hired on as a full-time employee, my previous experience allowed me to start being productive and generating data within the first week due to already being familiar with the company’s instruments and facilities.
Do you have any advice to prospective interns?
Become an expert at the methods and instruments you work with. Since research in industry is focused on developing new technologies, detailed knowledge of how the various kits, reagents, and instruments we use as researchers actually work is extremely valuable. Additionally, try to become a jack-of-all-trades type by diversifying your research interests and abilities. The most employable scientists are ones who are able to bridge gaps between disciplines, as communication between the various disciplines is often the most challenging part of doing research in a diverse setting. We all take a different approach towards science and use our own jargon to communicate our science, so being able to understand what each side is trying to accomplish can be extremely valuable and helpful towards moving a product forward. Chemical Biology, Bioinformatics, Genetics & Biochemistry, Cell Biology & Optics are just some general examples of disciplines that lend themselves to cross-disciplinary research, but other opportunities also exist. Seek them out and spend some time learning about other types of science. Research in industry is conducted by a large group of researchers with a broad set of skills, including Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Hardware Engineering, Software Engineering, etc., so being able to find a common ground and speak the same “professional language” will allow you to be much more successful at your job and also more appealing to prospective employers.