If I said I was nervous at the start of my internship at Bristol Myers Squibb, that would be an understatement. Relocating to Princeton, NJ was my first time living outside of Illinois, I had never interned at a company, and I was not sure what working in Discovery Synthesis would exactly entail. Thanks to the emphasis on passion and learning, I have gained much from my experience working at BMS.
Through my role in Discovery Synthesis, I have learned a lot about the environment and goals of scientists working at a major pharmaceutical company. In the long course of developing a drug, the Discovery Synthesis group plays a role in figuring out how potential drug candidates can be synthesized on a larger and larger scale. Attending weekly group meetings has been incredibly valuable, as I have witnessed how the chemists work together to troubleshoot, meet deadlines and expectations of collaborators and brainstorm novel solutions to challenging problems.
I was assigned to a project focused on improving the current capabilities of photocatalysis. I had no background in this field going into the internship, thus I was given the opportunity to become familiar with a new topic as well as broaden my horizons. Photocatalysis, which uses light to enable chemical transformations, has proved to be useful in various synthetic efforts, and I am grateful to have worked on an exciting, innovative project. Reading relevant literature and consulting my manager, Dr. Rajender Nallagonda, Senior Scientist, Department of Discovery Synthesis, with questions will also prepare me for the end-of-summer presentation, the culmination of my research efforts.
Outside of my work group, BMS organizes a variety of events to help interns gain a better sense of ongoing research and the immense efforts required to run the company. I particularly enjoyed following the Oncology Drug Development course, which explains topics such as immunology and translational research that I am not as exposed to in the chemistry department at school. Additionally, BMS hosted a two-day Chemistry Symposium in June, featuring graduate students presenting their research as well as BMS chemists. This was an amazing opportunity for me to learn about ongoing research in both academia and industry. Given my enthusiasm for attending graduate school, I also appreciated the chance to explore these topics.
Meeting new people has also been a large part of the internship. BMS helps facilitate this by organizing mentor-mentee meetings; for example, I am paired with a chemist in a different department, and through our conversations, I have learned more about innovative medicinal chemistry projects. Moreover, I have met other interns at various events and learned about a diverse range of ongoing projects. Altogether, I believe that these meetups have allowed for an inclusive sense of community while also providing me with insight into other departments.
Looking back, my internship at BMS provided me with opportunities to explore new areas in chemistry and science in general. This prioritization on growth and learning is evident in the myriad events I attended and in the cutting-edge chemistry I worked on. To make the most of the experience, I have asked questions, kept an open mind about my interests, and talked to people in different departments as much as possible. As I start my final year of college, I feel more prepared given the new knowledge and perspectives I encountered this summer.
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