Inside the Internship: Q&A with a Biotech Intern

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Go Inside a Biotech Internship with Microbiology Major Jasmine Nguyen Stem cell research, pharmaceuticals, biofuel – the biotech field cuts a wide swath. A wide, growing, swath with nearly endless career paths and possibilities that can make it difficult to narrow your focus of study. Jasmine Nguyen, a microbiology major at San Jose State University, is going the route of research and development, with a biotech internship working with antibodies, assays, and molecular detection models.

As a research intern at Assay Biotech in Silicon Valley, Nguyen worked on experiments growing and maintaining cell cultures and her day-to-day involved analyzing the results and making recommendations on potential adjustments. Her best friend for the semester was a lab notebook and her meticulously recorded results.

Want to learn more about how to get a biotech internship and what you might work on? Pull up a lab stool.

Q: How did you find your internship? What was the interview process like?        
A: I went online to my university’s career website and applied to some jobs and internships that were applicable in my field. About a month later, I received an email saying that the company wanted to interview me in person. The interview process surprisingly included a quiz I had to do on the spot, which was nerve-wracking at first but I realized that I already had the skills to work through the problems. Two weeks after the interview, I received an email from the hiring manager that I was chosen.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about your internship?   
A: The most challenging thing for me was preparing to present my project data to the company audience. I had to reorganize my data both on paper and in works in a way that my audience could see the flow and understand. I also had to take my speech skills into consideration as well, thinking about which phrases were appropriate for me to use. It was all worth it in the end when my coworkers and managers understood my work and gave me the feeling that I contributed something to the company’s research.

Q: What did you love most about your internship? 
A: The people I get to work with and be around. During this internship I realized that having a job was more than just appreciating the work, but also realizing the great personal connections you make with the people you work and communicate with daily.

Q: What personality traits do you think are most important to succeed in a biotech internship?
A: Organization, attentiveness to detail, and communication are the most vital qualities to have. From the work that I did, I had to be able to keep my data in order in a notebook, keeping in mind that it had to be neat and understandable to others who looked at my notebook. With the presentations I had to do, I had to take into consideration the appropriate terms I can say for my audience to understand. A keen eye was really needed for these daily tasks, since it was easy to forget small tasks or lose track of which steps you did or did not do.

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking for an internship like yours?           
A: For the biotechnology field, I’d tell the person to expect rejections, and lots of them. I had applied to many internship postings until I received my first email back and I looked at all of my other applications that weren’t accepted, as opportunities that just didn't fit me. If you find any opportunities that you have even the slightest interest in, go for it! You’ll never know what will happen if you don’t give it a try.

Connect with Jasmine on LinkedIn.