Beyond the Degree

An Unprecedented Capstone Internship Poster Presentation (Fall 2020)

One of the most exceptional components to the Masters of Science (M.S.) in Biotechnology at Georgetown University is the opportunity for students to gain hands-on, real world experience, from a variety of sources, during their semester long capstone internship. While the pandemic may have dampened our spirits, it also allowed the Biotechnology Program to become more nimble by finding alternative mechanisms to complete both the internships as well as the Capstone Internship Poster Presentation, a poster presentation event that is typically held on campus. As always the Biotechnology students rose to the challenge! Our fellow classmates completed their internships using a variety of mechanisms (in-person, remote or hybrid) and they completed their poster presentations in front of a panel of judges, faculty and fellow classmates via Zoom.

About the Capstone Internship

Each semester, students complete the Biotechnology Capstone Internship Course (BIOT-502) as part of the degree requirements. Students work in various capacities at companies in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, and medical device industries; consulting firms; government agencies; and academic institutions to complete pre-defined objectives. In previous years, internship projects have delved into topics such as marketing, technology transfer, business development, and more. At the end of the semester, the students typically present their internship project presentations to a panel of faculty members in aligning industries.

On December 7th, 2020, the following six MS Biotechnology graduate students participated in the Virtual Fall 2020 Capstone Internship Presentations event.

Audrey Francis

Track: BioBusiness

Hometown: Adlie, VA

Project Title: ”Analysis of 2020 FDA GMP Warning Letters”

Mentor(s): Sarah Tanksley (Tanksley Consulting Group)

Project Description: Each year, the FDA does their best in ensuring safety and quality of drug products, and one method they do is sending FDA warning letters that detail violations of the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 (CFR 21) after warning letters and reviewed 33 warning letters to identify trends and patterns within the pharmaceutical manufacturing space.

XinJuan Koh

Track: Industrial Sciences

Hometown: Malaysia

Project Title: ”An Assessment of Mammalian Cell Lines for Antibody Production”

Mentor(s): Dr. Kyle DiVito (Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center)

Project Description: In her fall internship, XinJuan evaluated multiple non-human mammalian cell lines for use in transient expression systems. Researchers use these systems to produce recombinant antibodies for many significant clinical and research applications. Favorite Memory: During her time with the MS Biotechnology Program, XinJuan enjoyed the well-rounded curriculum involving scientific and business acumen which allowed her to explore the real-world applications of biotechnology. Experiences such as the internship have been extremely helpful in increasing her work experience in the biotechnology industry.

Sri Suresh

Track: BioScience

Hometown: Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India

Project Title: ”Viral membrane fusion protein-mediated cell signaling”

Mentor(s): Dr. Yuichiro Suzuki, Professor, (Department of Pharmacology, Georgetown University Medical Center)

Project Description: Throughout her internship, Sri studied the role of viral membrane fusion proteins in promoting cell signaling in host cells. Since viral membrane fusion proteins are used as a basis for vaccine development, it is vitally important to understand the role they play in contributing to adverse health consequences through cell signaling. Favorite Memory: While at Georgetown, Sri enjoyed the campus facilities and the international student life. She especially appreciates the Hoya spirit and support from the students, faculty and alumni. Post Grad Plans: Since graduating, Sri has published a paper regarding the impact of SARS-CoV 2 spike protein on lung vascular cells. She has also accepted a position as a Research Associate in Infectious Diseases at BIOQUAL, Inc. located in Rockville, MD.

Tierney Sovic

Track: BioBusiness

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

Project Title: “Nitrosamine Impurities Connected to the Generic Drug Market”

Mentor(s): Sarah Tanksley (Tanksley Consulting Group)

Project Description: In the duration of her internship, Tierney performed market research of the pharmaceutical regulatory space; more specifically, she focused on the presence of impurities such as nitrosamines in generic drugs. Working as a consultant, Tierney analyzed government and regulatory documents to identify nitrosamine contamination factors in manufacturing steps and compiled recommendations when encountering impurities in drugs. Favorite Memory: Looking back at her time attending Georgetown, Tierney enjoyed the collaborative courses which allowed her to work in team settings and learn how to effectively negotiate with her peers. Tierney is grateful for the new experiences she gained while in the Program, especially since her background in STEM emphasized individual work. Post Grad Plans: Tierney has accepted an offer as a Senior Analyst at Stern Investor Relations in New York City.

Andreas Zembashi

Track: BioBusiness Track

Hometown: Cyprus

Project Title: “Competitive Intelligence within Life Science Consulting”

Mentor(s): Sami Rahman, Senior Associate, Pointe Advisory

Project Description: Working within life science consulting, Andreas took a look into competitive intelligence as a strategic method and applied it with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) disease space, observing all key players in the disease market and how novel drugs can impact the market. With this experience, Andreas sees the value of consulting, working with biotech companies who are creating novel therapies. Favorite Memory: Andreas’ fondest memories included having lab applications class in person, and during long breaks, Andreas would find himself lost on campus. One time, Andreas accidentally entered into a morgue when he was trying to find his way back to class! Post Grad Plans: Andreas’ goals include entering the biotech industry and starting his career. His current interests include consulting, sales and lab bench work.

Shiyun Zhou

Track: Drug Discovery & Design

Hometown: China

Project Title: “Development of a Novel MCM-48-based IMAC Material for Phosphoproteomics and Endogenous Phosphopeptidomics”

Mentor(s): Dr. Junfeng Ma, Assistant Professor, Department of  Oncology, Director, Proteomics Shared Resource, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

Co-mentor: Dr. Ci Wu, Research Scientist, Department of  Oncology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

Project Description: Shiyun worked within phosphoproteomics and phosphopeptidomics and its global analysis. Currently, analyzing certain proteins and peptides can be a daunting task because of its low stoichiometry of phosphorylation. In this project, she supported the development of an enrichment method using immobilized metal affinity chromatography, which promises a useful and sensitive analysis for phosphoproteomics and phosphopeptidomics. Favorite Memory: Shiyun enjoyed the time she had having classes on campus and getting familiar with the Georgetown campus and community, before having to transition to virtual mode. Post Grad Plans: Shiyun is in the process of job searching in the US, looking for lab assistant positions. Meanwhile, she is continuing to work with her mentors in hopes of getting a publication.

Final Thoughts on an Unprecedented Semester

For our recent graduates, one word that can be shared among all the graduates: unprecedented. Each of these students began their first couple of months with the Program in what would have been a normal mode of operation. This all changed mid-March 2020 when schools closed down and students were forced to go virtual. Stripped from their campus experience, the students remained resilient, securing their internship amidst uncertainty, and yet continued to have a successful final fall semester. Throughout this time, these graduates showed determination in completing their degrees and gained indispensable knowledge and experience that prepared each of them for their next journey.

Congratulations to all of our Fall 2020 Graduates!

Best of Luck and Keep in Touch! 

Written by: Neil Laruan, Shauna Leonardo and Tierney Sovic

Contributions by: Audrey Francis, MS; XinJuan Koh, MS; Sri Suresh, MS; Tierney Sovic, MS; Andreas Zembashi, MS; Shiyun Zhou, MS

Special thanks to Khuyen Mai, MS (Course Director, Capstone Internship)

Edits by: Kyle DiVito, PhD