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Science Careers Put Under the Microscope

Students Get Real-World Advice from Alumni, Experts at Life Science Networking Event

Alumna Rachel Paquette talks to science students Photo by Meghan Moore
Rachel Paquette '14, left, talks to students about her work at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute during the annual Life Science Young Professionals Panel and Networking Session at Olsen Hall.

By Ed Brennen

A year ago, as Devina Thiono was wrapping up her bachelor’s degree in biology from the Kennedy College of Sciences, she attended the annual Life Science Young Professionals Panel and Networking Session at Olsen Hall to learn how she could better prepare herself for the job market.

A year later, Thiono returned to the event — only this time to share her experiences as a research assistant at Boston Children’s Hospital with career-minded science students hoping to follow in her footsteps. 
“When they hear advice from alumni, it makes it that much more relatable,” said Thiono, who told the more than 50 students in attendance about the importance of her undergraduate research experience, as well as her six-month internship at STC Biologics, a startup biotech company in Cambridge, following graduation.
Students break out into smaller networking sessions Photo by Meghan Moore
Students speak one-on-one with industry experts during the networking portion of the Life Science Evening.

“Once I had this internship and this additional skill set, it became much easier to get a job at Boston Children’s Hospital,” said Thiono, who works developing treatment devices for diabetes type 1 at MIT’s Koch Institute.

The event, co-sponsored by the Department of Biological Sciences and the Career and Co-op Center, featured 10 panelists and special guests from fields including pharmaceuticals, health care, biomedical sciences and biotechnology. Following an hourlong panel discussion (moderated by Biology Dept. Chair Matthew Nugent) that covered everything from résumé writing to work visas for international students, students were able to meet the experts one-on-one in breakout networking sessions. 

Like Thiono, Andrew Ciarla had also attended the event while completing his bachelor’s in biology in 2014 and accelerated master’s in 2015. He was back this year as a special guest, sharing his experience as a research assistant at Beth Israel Deaconess Center’s Santra Laboratory and Harvard Medical School’s Center for Virology and Vaccine Research.
Alumna Devina Thiono talks to a science student Photo by Meghan Moore
Devina Thiono '15, right, shares her career experience with a student at the Life Science Evening.

“I remember the panelists saying how important it was to have experience, so from that I signed up as a graduate assistant for bio courses, which really helped me get the job that I have now,” said Ciarla, who adds that his hands-on laboratory work in school proved invaluable when he began interviewing for research positions at Boston-area hospitals.

“They were really interested in the lab work I did. I actually took my final formal lab report with me as a demonstration of what I can do, and they said, ‘Wow, this is really good,’ ” said Ciarla, whose current work involves developing a vaccine that produces broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV.

Joining Thiono on the expert panel were fellow alumni Rachel Paquette ’14, research associate for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Richard Giadone ’15, a first-year PhD student at Boston University’s School of Medicine where he studies stem cell and regenerative biology. The panel also included Brette Brickel, manager of clinical operations for Parexel Corp., and Christian Phillips, a senior director for the Albany Molecular Research Institute.
Prof. Matthew Nugent moderates the panel discussion Photo by Meghan Moore
Biology Dept. Chair Matthew Nugent moderates the panel discussion at the Life Science Evening.

Other special guests included Mary Ann Picard, associate director for the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2), Robert Swain, founder of RESound Clinical Consulting, Theresa Singleton, principal scientific writer for Singleton Science, and Joe Musiak, director of engineering for Acorda Therapeutics. 

“It’s a great event and a nice way to meet people working in the field you want to work in,” said Michael Samuel, a junior biology major who attended for the second straight year. “The panelists offer some really insightful advice on how to sell yourself as a person. Everyone can have great grades, but how are you as a person? What makes you stand out? I’m working on that myself.”