Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Georgetown Biotechnology Student Wins Prize at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Summer Internship Program

The Georgetown Biotechnology Master’s Program celebrated its 20th Anniversary this year (1997-2017). It also completed the 5th year of collaborations with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Summer Internship Program.

Every summer since 2012, the Biotechnology Program has been sending students to participate in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Summer Internship Program. 500 – 800 students from across the country descend on the LLNL campus in the summer to participate in high-tech, cutting-edge research at the national laboratory.

We receive high praises for Biotech student interns from LLNL mentors.  Georgetown Biotech students have been reputed to be academically fit with advanced laboratory skills, highly mature, possess real-world views and express full engagement through their communication skills. One mentor at LLNL has already expressed interest in securing two Biotech students for next summer – a testament to the value of Georgetown Biotechnology students.

This summer, three Georgetown biotechnology scholars experienced scientific growth while engaged in their projects in the LLNL Summer Internship Program.  Our first student, Elaine Shults (BIOT2017) won a Blue Ribbon prize for her internship project with the LLNL Innovation and Partnerships Office (IPO), entitled “Giving Life to Scientific Innovation: A Portfolio Audit of LLNL’s Neurotechnology Assets.” While in the Biotechnology Program, Elaine chose the BioBusiness track. Of her experience, she writes:

“My summer internship within the Innovation and Partnerships Office (IPO) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has deeply enriched my understanding of business operations under certain legal frameworks, and challenged my scientific and technical understanding of cutting-edge science. My various projects included conducting a portfolio audit to assess the lab’s neurotechnology assets for potential use in industry, and writing a quarterly report outlining the many uses of artificial intelligence within precision medicine initiatives and other healthcare applications. [My mentors were] a wealth of information to me, and I am thankful for their mentorship and guidance. This experience has given me a truly unique perspective, as the IPO office sits at the intersection of business, science, and law. I feel well prepared to enter the next phase of my professional journey: as a Regulatory Intelligence Analyst for Genentech, a South San Francisco-based biotechnology company.”

Our second Biotechnology student scholar Max Li (BIOT2017) did his internship related to algal biofuels entitled “Probiotics and Microalgae Livelihood,” and shares the following in response to how the experience benefited him:

“In consultation with my mentors, I was given autonomy to design and plan my experiments that would fit within the scope of the project, for example designing and optimizing the qPCR protocol. I know for a fact that employers look for people who are able to think critically and rationally – not just the ability to follow standardized procedures. This experience at Lawrence Livermore really allowed me to hone in on my research and analytical-thinking skills that will invariably translate well over to any facet of the biotech industry.”

Our third scholar, Diba Zomorrodi’s project entitled “The biodistribution and pharmacokinetics of the novel LLNL oxime acetylcholinesterase reactivator CV11-061A” involved testing a compound that has great potential to counter act exposure to organophosphorus-based nerve agents in chemical warfare. Diba writes:

“My experience at LLNL has provided me with immense amounts of valuable information, including understanding the early-stage drug discovery process. After learning about certain aspects of what makes a biotech company successful at Georgetown, it was fascinating to be directly involved in the preclinical studies of a potential drug. This research experience may seem unconventional for a government-contracted lab that focuses mainly on work that aligns with the mission of the Department of Energy, but I enjoyed gaining the preclinical experience most this summer. I had the opportunity to not only take part in developing something that will serve our country, but also understand how our research can have commercial uses. Although my experience this summer involved animal studies and understanding the pharmacokinetic data we extracted from them, I hope to gain more experience in the other aspects of drug discovery and design. I will be continuing on to work at Amgen in their Research & Development Department, where my knowledge of different mass spectrometric techniques and how they are utilized for toxicology studies will undoubtedly equip me for the challenges ahead.”

We are extremely proud of our students, and will continue to innovate and update the Program so that our students will enjoy a rich and satisfying learning experience and be prepared to meet the needs and challenges of a US national laboratory as well as the biotechnology industry.

Vasna Nontanovan
Associate Director, Biotechnology Program