Originally published October 4, 2016
By Edmundo Esparza
Senior, Biological Sciences
This summer I had the immense privilege of participating in the Summer Scholars Program at Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research (NIBR) headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Novartis is a global healthcare company and Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research (NIBR) in particular focuses on the research and development of therapies. NIBR takes a very unique approach to pharmaceutical research itself. All of the research at NIBR is driven by patient needs and an in-depth understanding of diseases – a very inspiring cause indeed.
I had the pleasure of working in the Developmental and Molecular Pathways (DMP) group within Novartis this summer. At DMP, the main goal is to understand how molecular pathways are wired in normal as well as diseased states. Such an in-depth understanding of basic molecular pathways is then applied to designing novel therapies. During my internship, I worked with Malini Varadarajan under the guidance of Feng Cong and Greg Hoffman as well as several other talented scientists. My 10-week research project was focused on innovating the use of CRISPR to enable genome scale pooled screening of two very important disease pathways.
CRISPR is a very popular and revolutionizing technology that allows for genome editing. The CRISPR field is relatively new and is therefore the topic of a lot of research and investigation. It was very exciting to learn about CRISPR as well as work on the cutting edge of technology development.
The Novartis Summer Scholars program did a terrific job of fostering my personal and professional development. The ability to do basic research in an industry setting has truly been an eye-opening experience. The chance to work with experts in the field and to see them all come together to make decisions around advancing drug targets was inspiring.
Novartis is located in the heart of Cambridge among MIT and Harvard and does an excellent job collaborating with these premier academic institutions. It was truly amazing to watch all of the Novartis campuses across different time zone – Emeryville in California, Shanghai in China and Basel in Switzerland – collaborate with each other. I witnessed firsthand how teams working with a common goal across the world can come together to troubleshoot and innovate protocols for better therapies.
This summer experience advanced my personal growth beyond compare. I have gained some sense of direction for future career goals. I have also developed key professional characteristics that I know will make me a competitive applicant for an employer or graduate school. Finally, it has furthered my understanding and appreciation of science, lab techniques and the importance of basic research for drug discovery purposes.