Summer Biotech Interns Shed Light on Why Internships are Valuable for Companies and Students

At BioBuzz, we’ve been beating the proverbial drum about the importance of high-quality, diverse workforce development programming for all skill levels because strong workforce development infrastructure is critical to creating sustainable growth within the BHCR’s life science ecosystem. 

Excellent workforce development programming offered by BioTrain™ and Bio-TracⓇ at Montgomery College offers continued training to further develop the life science workforce. Additionally, early-career workforce development is being supported by many new internship programs that are on the rise at individual companies.  

The region has seen some important workforce programs get closed recently, including the Biotech Research and Education Program and Johns Hopkins University’s Rockville, Maryland Biotech Center. These programs were very important to developing the next generation of bioprocessing engineers and life science talent for the region’s life science industry and will likely damage the workforce pipeline in the short term.

That said there are many promising developments occurring in the workforce development space. A number of new workforce development opportunities like the relatively new Cville BioHub CHIP program, GlaxoSmithKline and Montgomery College’s Apprenticeship Program, and The University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s (UMBC) Maryland Technology Internship Program (MTIP) have bolstered the workforce pipeline. Universities are the lifeblood of the region’s talent pipeline and these programs are succeeding because they effectively connect students with the companies that can provide them real-world experience. 

Also out of UMBC, the BS in Translational Life Science Technology program provides students a mix of biotechnology theory along with the hands-on, real-world application so that they can graduate with skills that are more aligned with what companies need. This helps students be more competitive when they graduate and helps companies by producing students who need less of a ‘ramp-up’ period when starting in the workforce.

Other programs like Johns Hopkins University’s BioMedical Careers Initiative (BCI) continue to provide their regional industry partner organizations with high-level PhD and Post Doctoral Fellow talent. 

Providing undergraduate and graduate students across the BHCR with firsthand experience at life science companies is a win-win scenario for the intern and the organization where they are placed. The host organization gets skilled talent that’s eager to learn and produce, sometimes for no cost; and the intern gets a chance to experience and learn from expert professionals in a real work environment. 

But don’t take it from us. Let’s hear from the summer interns themselves about their experiences at various intern opportunities across the region.  

Summer Intern Spotlight

Titina Sirak

https://www.linkedin.com/in/titina-s-043446192/

Titina Sirak standing in front of UMBC podium.

School Affiliation, Major and Year:

University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Translational life Sciences Technology (TLST), Senior 

Where are you interning and what is your internship position?

I am currently interning at Kite Pharma’s Frederick, Maryland Cell Therapy Manufacturing Facility in the TCFO5 (T-Cell, Factory 5) as a manufacturing intern.

How did you find the internship?

I found out about this internship at a hiring event held by BioBuzz and Kite last year.

What was the internship application process like?

The process was very smooth. After attending the event I kept an eye on job/internship postings from the company. And when I got the opportunity, I applied for the positions that I was interested in and contacted people I met at the BioBuzz event and expressed my interest in joining the company. Since I already had the opportunity to meet people and make a good impression at the event, it was not hard to get recommendations. After that, I had a series of phone interviews as well as one in person interview.

Why was getting an internship important to you?

Getting an internship is important to me because it allows me to harness the knowledge, skill, and theoretical practice that I learned in my classes. My major is very broad, and it covers many aspects of the biotech industry. Getting this internship allows me to gain more focused and specific knowledge about the cell therapy industry.

How do you see the internship impacting your academics?

This internship will help me gain a well-rounded, hands-on experience that will enable me to connect the lecture material that I will learn in class to the biotech industry.

What career are you most interested in pursuing and why?

Post-graduation, I am interested in pursuing a career in the biotech industry because I know the biotech industry…There is so much room to make so many discoveries that will make a big difference in the world. And now more than ever the situation that the world is in makes me realize that I have made the right choice…I have seen the need in the industry for more motivated translational scientists that will enable the discovery of cures/treatments from discovery to patient.

Summer Intern Spotlight

Charmaine Hipolito

https://www.linkedin.com/in/charmainehplt/

Charmaine Hipolito sitting down.

School Affiliation, Major and Year:

UMBC Shady Grove; BS Translational Life Science Technology Fall, 2020

Where are you interning and what is your internship position?

I am interning at AstraZeneca (AZ) in their Frederick Manufacturing Center in the Manufacturing, Sciences & Technology (MS&T) department. My work is based around technology transfer, product qualification, and process analytics.

How did you find the internship?

I first became aware of the internship opportunities at AstraZeneca when Dr. Joe Sanchez, Associate Director of Learning and Talent Development at AZ, came to speak in a class on the Biotech industry.  The internship positions became available at the start of the year and position descriptions were easily accessible on AZ’s website. (https://careers.astrazeneca.com/student-worker-and-internships-us)

What was the internship application process like?

I applied to the position on the AZ website. The site asked me to answer basic information about my background and interests, and it requested the submission of a resume…I was contacted via email in order to set up a half-hour phone interview. The phone interview was relaxed and casual. They asked me about my experiences, and what interested me about the position that I had applied to. Once chosen for the position, they reached out to me again in order to let me know.  After that, the staffing team got in touch with me to start the onboarding process. Suffice it to say, the process was straightforward.

Why was getting an internship important to you?

It is very important for me to complete an internship this summer in order to utilize what I have learned from classes in a real-world setting. While I value what I learn in academic settings, I also know that there are some things that can best be learned when done on the job. This internship will help me understand the process validation aspects of the biotech industry. It will also give me valuable information to help decide the best path I can take in the field. I hope to share learning from these experiences with fellow students to help them navigate their careers, for instance in the UMBC-Shady Grove Biotech Club. Finally, the internship is a natural way to meet people and develop a professional network.

How do you see the internship impacting your academics?

This internship will significantly advance my academic goals. I have already become better acquainted with organizational expectations and work culture norms through formal on-boarding training, and I am learning practical skills through my project work every day. These new ways of working will carry over to help strengthen my grasp of ideas and information that I will learn in classes. This internship is an opportunity to enhance skills I have been introduced to in class. For instance, I will be applying and extending skills in data collection, evaluation, and process modeling that I had previously studied in a course on bioinformatics. The internship will also broaden my understanding of the drug product lifecycle, especially in the areas of process validation, technical transfer, and continuous process verification and validation.  

What career are you most interested in pursuing and why?

I would like to leverage my focused training in biotechnology and ideally join the biotech industry after graduation this fall. I am interested in joining a department that applies science and technology to develop, commercialize, or support biotherapeutic products.  After working in the industry for a few years, I also plan on pursuing a master’s degree in order to be ready to take on more responsibility in the field. We are in an era where digital data of improving quality and quantity is being generated. A key challenge is to find ways to use that data in a timely manner in order to make high-quality decisions.  So, I am currently considering Master’s-level studies in biotechnology with complementary studies in bioinformatics.

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Steven Surdez

Steven Surdez

Principal at StoryCore
Steve has over 20 years experience in copywriting, developing brand messaging and creating marketing strategies across a wide range of industries, including the biopharmaceutical, senior living, commercial real estate, IT and renewable energy sectors, among others. He is currently the Principal/Owner of StoryCore, a Frederick, Maryland-based content creation and execution consultancy focused on telling the unique stories of Maryland organizations.

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