On October 17th, I attended a seminar where 5 Rutgers students shared their internship experience with the audience. The student panelists were:
- Anna Giarratana, MD, Ph.D. candidate, Pfizer externship via iJobs 2nd phase
- Praveen Bommareddy, Ph.D. candidate in Tumor Immunology, Intern at Regeneron
- Victor Tan, Ph.D. candidate in Pharmacology, Regulatory CMC Intern at Celgene
- Xiaowei Zang, Ph.D. candidate in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Summer Intern at CSL Behring
- Pooja Khana. Ph.D. student, Intern at Genentech
They were all asked 5 questions:
- How did you learn about the internship?
- How did you approach your PI about your interest in doing an internship?
- How was the application process?
- How was your experience?
- What advice would you give based on your experience?
She met an employee of Pfizer at a conference she attended. She kept a constant communication with the person and showed interest in learning more about opportunities in the company. Anna, an MD/Ph.D. candidate, used this as an opportunity to explore non-academic careers. She was comfortable with letting her advisor, Dr. Janet Alder, know about her interest in doing an externship and was fully supported to pursue her aspirations. For a few months Anna shadowed her mentor, at Pfizer, to learn about Global Medical Affairs. The experience allowed her to have a broader idea about opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry and it also helped broadened her network. She advised the audience to “be open to networking, and also to be attentive with the people that you meet.”
Praveen had always planned on doing an internship, even before he started his graduate studies. So, he prepared a good CV/resume and looked for positions that matched the skills he had. Before starting in his lab, he communicated his desire with his PI, who was in support of the idea. His PI even helped him make connections that will get him closer to his goals. Praveen interned at Regeneron and the application process was done online. Rutgers students have an additional benefit since the company constantly visits Rutgers for recruitment. Therefore, it is good to approach them when they stop by the campus. Praveen looked for internship opportunities nearby so he could come to lab on weekends or when needed. During his internship, he learned how to balance his time and prioritize. His advice was to plan ahead and let your PI know beforehand as this would make the internship process less stressful on you and your PI.
Victor is a 4th year Ph.D. student in Pharmacology and is also on the Biotech Training Grant. His experience was a little different since the grant requires participating students to do an internship. He also did not need support from a PI since he did his internship, at Celgene, while in the process of transitioning to a new lab. He worked in the Regulatory department, which is a different area from what he had been exposed to and this allowed him to learn about other career opportunities. He advised the audience to be flexible and keep an open mind about the possibilities.
Xiaowei, a 6th year student at the Pharmacy School, was an intern at CSL Behring. She had a unique route to her internship opportunity; someone approached her PI about the opening and he recommended her for the position. At CSL Behring, she worked on Pharmacokinetics modeling. She also did an externship and shadowing in the medical writing department at Johnson & Johnson. Her supervisor at J&J was really supportive and helped her increase her network. Her advice is to reach out to the connections you make and make a good impression with your colleagues because they will be your references for the future. Always be upfront and transparent!
Pooja is a 1st year Ph.D. student and was an intern at Genentech. She had just finished her Master’s degree when she reached out to contacts on her LinkedIn for possible internship positions. The smart idea led her to an internship at Genentech. She enjoyed the opportunities and activities Genentech provided to enrich their interns. Pooja says that a lot happens through connections, so it’s really important to make the connections. She also advised that having industry experience makes job applications easier for people looking to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Her advice is to be incredibly enthusiastic, show up, and ask questions.
Their overall advice is that we should look for opportunities to talk to the employees in the company we are interested in. This will allow us to learn more about interesting jobs and the company culture. As for interns, what you learn on the job is important and should enhance your career development. To hear more on their experiences you can listen to the podcast of this event.
This article was edited by Madhuri Bhagavathula and Maryam Alapa