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Building Careers

A BMS Science Career Blossoms with the Help of a Mentor

June 12, 2023
Early CareerIntern/Co-opResearch and DevelopmentSTEM
Careers Home  /  Career Stories  /  A BMS Science Career Blossoms with the Help of a Mentor
Jesus Moreno, Ph.D. Principal Scientist in Small Molecule Drug Discovery, Integrated Discovery Medicinal Chemistry
Jesus Moreno, Ph.D. Principal Scientist in Small Molecule Drug Discovery, Integrated Discovery Medicinal Chemistry

Mentorship can be an incredibly powerful experience, positively affecting the lives of the mentor and the mentee. These experiences can hold even more weight to members of groups and ethnicities underrepresented in STEM fields, where individuals might not be aware of opportunities and therefore fall back on familiar careers they’ve had exposure to.

Such was the case with Jesus Moreno, Principal Scientist and Medicinal Chemist in Small Molecule Drug Discovery at Bristol Myers Squibb. Growing up, Jesus had an intense interest in the sciences, but until he developed a varied and resourceful support system of mentors that helped him navigate and refine what his interests were, he felt a bit disillusioned as he realized how few people around him in the sciences didn’t look like or have a similar upbringing to him.

Paying it Forward with STEM Mentorships

That scenario was but one of the reasons Jesus volunteered with BMS’s Organization for Latino Achievement (OLA), one of eight People Business Resource Groups within BMS. It’s also how he made a life-changing connection with Christina Rivera, currently Chemistry Co-op in the Small Molecule Drug Development department at BMS. When they met, however, Christina was an undergraduate finishing up her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry.

After applying and getting accepted to the OLA Mentorship Program for Scientists, Christina was paired with Jesus in what seemed like a perfect partnership. It serves as confirmation that representation matters and can serve as a strong influencer, especially among students who are looking for guidance.

“We had the exact same background story,” she said. “Like me, there weren’t scientists in his family, but now I had this person sharing his experience of how he got to where he is as a principal scientist.”

“Talking to a great talent like Christina,” added Jesus. “One realizes that life lessons and advice resonate a lot more when they’re coming from someone with a similar upbringing.”

BMS and OLA Mentorships for Students at All Levels

Christina Rivera, Medicinal Chemist Co-Op in Small Molecule Drug Discovery, Integrated Discovery Medicinal Chemistry
Christina Rivera, Medicinal Chemist Co-Op in Small Molecule Drug Discovery, Integrated Discovery Medicinal Chemistry

Obviously, a key to success in the program is a pairing with an understanding mentor. Beyond that, the program allows for student scientists at the undergraduate, graduate and PhD levels an opportunity to engage with BMS scientists for invaluable career and graduate school guidance. The program introduces Latinx and other first-generation college students across the US to the interesting and varied career opportunities available in biotech, as well as day-to-day things that Christina found beneficial.

“From talking about what makes up medicinal chemistry, to making sure that was what I really wanted to pursue, to small things,” she said. “Like, ‘Is this wording, or is this terminology correct?’ Having someone there for that reassurance, that really helped my confidence levels.”

The mentorship program, which is advertised through the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), also includes career-related skills, such as resume and CV writing, networking and communication workshops, along with self-assessment seminars, which Christina found helpful.

“They assessed our goals, then focused on finding, refining and using our strengths to accomplish those goals,” she said. “That was one of the eye-opening seminars for me, and it really worked.”

Real Benefits for Mentees and Mentors

As well as the overall benefits for the mentee, Jesus mentioned how mentoring not only fits in with his personal desires to give back, but also fits in with the mission of his work, day in and day out. “What keeps me motivated at the end of the day, is that I’ve always wanted to do something to help people,” he said. “Whether that’s going into the lab and designing the next generation of medicines to help patients, or whether that’s inspiring the next generation of Latino and Latina scientists, I feel lucky to be with an organization like BMS that encourages me to explore my many passions – and give back.”

Jesus’ world at BMS is one in which pragmatism and aspiration can live comfortably side by side, as he again spoke of the generation following him. “This mentorship program is the type of initiative that has benefits all around,” he said. “Sure, there are business objectives being met: BMS would love to have someone like Christina return once their education is complete. But bringing more diverse talent to BMS is a long-term commitment, and inspiring the next generation to stay excited about science is incredibly fulfilling.”

Next Steps: From Mentorship to a BMS Co-op Program

While participating in the OLA Mentorship Program as an undergraduate student, Christina applied for a Co-op Program with Small Molecule Drug Development and was accepted; she concurrently worked at BMS while completing her undergraduate degree in Chemistry. Come the fall semester, she'll begin her doctoral studies in Chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles. It’s a situation that sounds like a perfect next step for her career journey.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” she said. “BMS is such a positive and friendly environment where we eat lunch together, there are different ongoing events, a great work/life balance, all the different Resource Groups, and getting to know all these chemists and scientists inside and outside our department; you really feel connected by the work.”

Could You Benefit from a Mentorship Program?

Once again, Jesus touched on the OLA Mentorship Program as a pathway to diversity. “But diversity comes in a lot of flavors,” he said. “We need to commit to the next generation of scientists and assess all the different things they can bring to the table, because there isn’t just cultural diversity. There’s diversity of thought, geographic and educational diversity. We’ve benefitted from bringing people from all walks of life to our department, and it’s worked really well.”

If you’d like to explore more about what it’s like to work at BMS and see the entire range of our early career programs, click here to learn more.