My Industrial Internship

It seems as if the excitement and anticipation of getting started at Biogen Cambridge office was yesterday. I can still remember the intense ‘Jeopardy’ we played on the HR orientation day, everyone tried to reach the button with lightning speed, despite knowing it doesn’t matter to win or lose.

To begin unfolding my internship experience, I want to give special thank you to my PI Dr. Lindsay Farrer and committee at school, for being super supportive about my decision about doing an internship during Ph. D. Without my schools support, I would not have the opportunity to write this blog.

The group I was in during the internship does work closely related to what I’m familiar with at school, which includes performing statistical test on human DNA mutations to infer disease causing variants, fine mapping the disease-causing loci, finding impact of human mutations on gene expression level change, differential gene expression profiling and network analysis. I had a good amount of exposure seeing how the projects were presented and results were analyzed. The biggest difference I’ve noticed between industry and academia is that in the industry, on top of doing good science, people deeply value efficient communication to get the ideas/results across different groups in order to make the right decision for the company; whereas in the academia, more focus is on how to make scientific breakthroughs that can benefit the society, less about making profit. Although the same methods could be used in industry and academia, industry is more about using solid science to find right target with high confidence while academia is to accomplish ideas that could make our knowledge in a specific area deeper.

Apart from doing hard work all day, there were lots of fun moments outside of work for us to enjoy the short-term period in the company (thanks to Christina Fedders and Meghan Scott!). Biogen organized intern deep caring day, where we took a half-day trip to Mystic river and went kayaking to pick up overgrown water plants to benefit the local environment. Throughout the internship, we had lunch and learn with staffs from different departments to understand drug producing in different fields. In the intern closing session, we were encouraged to present our work in the poster format and learn about each other’s summer contribution. In a personal level, there were plenty of opportunities to get advice from people and the culture was very inclusive and encouraging for anyone who wants to thrive.

This experience has made me a more confident and skilled researcher who cares more about achieving the bigger picture, I will adopt part of Biogen’s slogan ‘Working Fearlessly’ in finishing my Ph. D and also in my future career.