By Ed Brennen
One of the best things about her internship at medical device startup RevBio, says biomedical engineering alumna Molly Shutt ’21, was that every day seemed different.
“It’s a startup, so you’re on every project and handed a lot of responsibility,” says Shutt, who interned during her junior year at the Lowell-based company, which is developing a novel synthetic bone adhesive. “I got to see a lot of different things, from mechanical testing to working with surgeons in cadaver labs. I came out of it with experience that I never could get just sitting in a class.”
She also came out of the internship with something else: a job offer. Shutt was hired as a product development engineer at RevBio after graduating last spring.
Shutt shared her story with nearly 50 engineering, biology, chemistry and biomedical and nutritional science students during a recent networking event co-hosted by the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2
) and the UML student chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society
Dubbed a “Student Intern and Employer Mashup,” the event included a dozen resident companies from M2D2, an incubator program for early-stage medical device and biotech startups that is a joint venture between UML and the UMass Chan Medical School
Held at M2D2’s 110 Canal St. location in downtown Lowell, the event was the idea of junior biomedical engineering majors Devon Hartigan and Irene Frechette, co-presidents of the Biomedical Engineering Society.
“M2D2 is so close and they have so many of these great companies, so it just seemed like common sense that we would have more of a connection,” says Hartigan, who along with Frechette pitched the event idea to M2D2 Director of Operations Mary Ann Picard
at the beginning of the semester.
“We’re thrilled to support it,” Picard says. “All of our startup companies make use of interns, and they’re not always aware of the high level of talent that’s here on campus. It was a great opportunity for them to get to meet each other.”
Cameron Methot, a senior biology major from Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, told students about his summer internship at Versatope, a biotech startup developing vaccines and therapeutics. He now works at the company 16 hours a week as a process development technician.
“It’s been such a great experience,” says Methot, who learned about the opportunity through the Professional Co-op Program
. “My work revolves around the upstream and downstream processes of a 5-liter bioreactor, which is new to me entirely. I don’t know anyone my age that’s done work with bioreactors.”
Hyalex Orthopaedics, a company that is developing synthetic cartilage technology, has hired five interns from UML over the past five years — two of whom became full-time employees.
“We’ve had really great experiences with UML students,” says Shimon Unterman, a senior scientist at Hyalex who notes that “our goal is to help students understand the process of what you actually do in industry, not just the physical steps in the lab.”
That’s also the case at MedicaMetrix, a medical device company working to advance prostate disease management.
“We’re looking for students interested in seeing the full range of making a startup biomedical device happen,” says COO and co-founder Christopher LaForge. “Interns have the opportunity to participate not just in the engineering and testing side of things, but also the regulatory side.”
LaForge says they’ve recruited interns “mostly from UMass Lowell,” including Shalmali Salunke ’21, who was hired as a product development engineer at the company last spring after earning a master’s degree in plastics engineering.
MedicaMetrix caught the eye of William Zouzas, a senior biomedical engineering major from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, who came to the event in search of a spring or summer internship.
“A lot of career fairs are more general; I like how this was really tailored to biomedical engineering and biotech,” says Zouzas, who completed a six-month co-op at NxStage Medical in Lawrence, Massachusetts, last year.
“I’m interested in seeing how smaller companies operate,” he says. “I’m talking to all the medical device companies; that’s my focus.”
Saim Waqas, a junior biomedical engineering major from Pakistan, handed out his résumé to several companies that do tissue engineering and cell cultures.
“It’s a great event because it’s more personal. You can talk one-on-one,” he says.
Other companies at the event were Advanced Silicon Group; AltrixBio; Gelformed; Haystack Diagnostics; Glyscend; EnVision Endoscopy; and Hologic.
Glyscend, a company that develops drugs for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, has hired eight interns over the past three years and was looking for its ninth — a polymer chemist in training.
“We’re always coming back to this well, because it’s been hugely impactful for us,” says Director of Operations Kevin Colbert, who co-founded the company, located at M2D2’s Wannalancit Business Center site on East Campus.
“I was sitting in a chair like that not too many years ago,” Colbert told students. “I would have given anything to be part of a small company in the biotech space. You should definitely take advantage of every opportunity, because you can do a lot of learning in this type of internship.”
Shutt, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in biomedical engineering and biotechnology while working at RevBio, agreed.
“I didn’t do too much networking when I was an undergrad,” she says, “so it’s great to see students here asking lots of good questions.”