Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Intern Interview: Summer Opportunity for GU Biotech students at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The GU-LLNL Internship offers graduate students a premier research experience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the San Francisco Bay area. Lasting 10-12 weeks each summer, the internships may be virtual or in-person, contingent on laboratory needs and public health. With over 8,000 staff, LLNL is a global leader in diverse scientific fields including computing, genomics, biotechnology, photon science and biomedical engineering. The LLNL internship is open to Medical Center graduate students demonstrating academic excellence. It is a unique opportunity that enables students to engage in cutting-edge interdisciplinary research and a wonderful experience working with an amazing array of scientists. Below is the experience of a former intern and current student Adwitya Singh in the MS Biotechnology Program.

Hello Adi, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Could you please introduce
yourself, your educational background, and your track?

Hi everyone, my name is Adwitya Singh, but I go by Adi for short. I’m originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and I graduated from the Global Business Honors Program at the Fordham Gabelli School of Business in May 2022. I hold a bachelor’s of science degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. Here at Georgetown, I am in the BioSciences track to learn the technical aspects of the biopharmaceutical industry. Throughout the course of my professional and academic career thus far, I have developed a broad range of dexterous competencies, having rigorously studied in-depth and quantitative business and STEM subjects simultaneously in university. My internship experiences include various sectors, from a biotechnical start-up to an investigative researcher at the FDA, and these have helped develop my ability to learn quickly and synthesize information to precipitate solutions practically. These experiences allowed me to start my first company, Pro Medical Management Solutions LLC. shortly following my undergraduate graduation, where I manage multispecialty physician practices. Finally, I value being an impactful community member and have been a volunteer FDNY-EMT and a high school health class teacher during my undergraduate studies.

Logistically, what was your role in the internship; it’s duration and working hours per day?

During my three months this past summer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, I researched novel microencapsulation methods for unique microbial species commissioned by the U.S. government. The project is in its early stages and is being funded by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). As such, the amount of information that I am able to disclose is somewhat limited but my working hours per day ranged from 8-10 hours.

For our current and prospective students looking to take advantage of this opportunity, what would a day working at the Lawrence Livermore labs look like and what skills did you acquire during your internship?

My day at the lab typically started at 7 a.m. I would meet with fellow interns at the on-campus canteen, and we would enjoy breakfast together. As far as the workday goes, most of my time at the lab was spent performing experiments to test the viability of our proposed plans, which, of course, was followed by careful recording of both the procedures and results of said experiments. Oftentimes, we would order lunch for the research team. I would leave the lab anytime around 6-7 p.m. and head back to my AirBnB.

The multitude of skills that I gained from this experience span various scientific disciplines and were honed through especially rigorous training, both in the laboratory and through theoretical learning. The primary competencies include molecular biology techniques (proficiency in DNA/RNA extraction, PCR, electrophoresis, and sequencing, which are foundational for manipulating and understanding microbial genetics), microbial physiology and genetics (a deep understanding of microbial growth, metabolic pathways, and genetic manipulation), encapsulation technologies (mastery of different encapsulation techniques such as nanoencapsulation, microencapsulation, liposome technology, and polymer encapsulation), nanotechnology and materials science (skills in creating and characterizing nano-scale materials that could be used in the encapsulation process), chemical synthesis (the ability to synthesize new compounds that could be used as part of the encapsulation matrix or to facilitate the controlled release of microorganisms, biocompatibility testing (knowledge of how to assess the interaction between encapsulated materials and biological systems to ensure safety and efficacy), and security protocols (understanding and adherence to strict security measures, which would be an everyday aspect of working in a classified environment).

Throughout the fellowship, there was a significant emphasis on both the technical aspects of research and development and the ethical, legal, and social implications of working with controlled substances. I think that the skills acquired are highly transferable to various fields within biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and biosecurity.

Were there any difficulties that you have faced during your internship? With the
accommodation and move-in?

You got it. The hardest part was finding a place to stay during my fellowship. Since this is a government laboratory, on-campus housing is unfortunately not available. But many resources such as AirBnB and others turned out to be very valuable. I ended up rooming with another lab intern in a wonderful AirBnB in downtown Livermore, CA. Was an absolute blast!

What drew you to intern for Lawrence Livermore? Was it a specific project that you
found interesting or a general area of research?

I first heard of the lab through Georgetown and thought it would be a neat experience to have for the summer between semesters (I was right!). The program selection wasn’t entirely in my control since my application was submitted to a pool of Georgetown students who were interested in completing a fellowship at the lab. I was contacted by a couple of PIs from LLNL involved in a variety of different project segments, and it was then my choice to decide which project I was most interested in.

Were there any hardships that you had to face while you were working as an intern?

Honestly, the long hours were rather strenuous to be able to remain focused and productive for the duration of the workday. Other than that, smooth sailing!

For anyone at Georgetown interested in interning at Lawrence Livermore, whom should they be contacting, and what do the labs look for in applications?

In general, my experience was that they were most looking for someone open to experience and with the willingness to learn complex scientific and regulatory topics and apply them! As for applying, this can be done through the Georgetown LLNL application portal which is opened each year around the December-January time frame.

Would you like to comment on the passion/dedication of your colleagues at LLNL toward their work?

The multidisciplinary nature of the work at LLNL makes the work exciting! My colleagues were more than happy to be a part of such a diverse-minded community.

Can you give us any cool facts about the labs that an average person would not know?

Something that really stood out to me was the abundance of wildlife found on campus. Never
thought that I’d see a wild turkey roaming free at a government lab!

What was your favorite thing to work on while interning and why?

Classified 🙂

What are your next steps after this program?

My prospective next steps are to become involved in process engineering within the biopharmaceutical space. I think this would be a suitable transition given my summer experience at LLNL.

Written by: Sandra Bural and Ranju Ravindranath (M.S. candidates)
Contributions from: Adwitya Singh (M.S. candidate)
Edits by: Kyle DiVito, Ph.D.
February 2024