Posts Tagged ‘Career Community: Science’

Meet Alum Matt Surabian ’07, Senior Infrastructure Engineer at Zipcar

October 31st, 2018 by aclauson

Meet Alum Matt Surabian ’07, Senior Infrastructure Engineer at Zipcar

 

In one sentence, what does your job entail?

I create systems, write software, and maintain open source tooling that helps ensure Zipcar’s new technology platform is always able to deliver an awesome experience to our members no matter how many of them are using the service at the same time.

What were you involved in when you were on campus?

On campus I was most active in Residence Life as an RA and HRA of Clark (the best dorm). I also tutored students through the math department, helped out in ITS as an RCC, and worked in the art department as a dark room tech.

What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I came to Holy Cross as a mathematics and theater double major interested in working at the NSA. While researching an NSA summer internship I had a change of heart and ended up a computer science major interested in security and encryption.

Even though I didn’t finish my math major, I took most of the required courses and that foundation has helped me reason about complex algorithms, distributed systems, and the underpinnings of various encryption methods. My sophomore year I spent the summer doing research in the Math Department with Professor Hwang writing ray tracing software for modeling equations in 3D. That experience was one of the first times I wrote code to help solve a non-trivial problem and it really cemented for me that I wanted to be a programmer.
 
What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?

When I started at Holy Cross, Computer Science was still a new major and there weren’t many alumni connections in the field. I used what little I knew to hustle programming work on the side to try and improve my resume. My work in the art department and interest in photography unexpectedly connected me with someone who worked at Bose. We were talking one day and he casually mentioned some difficulties they were having trying to find someone to write a piece of mapping software his team needed. I offered to help and the next thing I knew I was a freelance programmer for Bose’s live music division.
I used this initial “break” in the industry as a stepping stone to get more freelance work at a local startup (MySeniorCenter) going into my senior year. By graduation I had a full-time job lined up at a local creative agency (CGI Interactive) where I was exposed to a lot of different companies, technologies, and technical challenges. I really loved the work and I spent almost 5 years there before leaving to join a team that was maintaining the software behind lots of high traffic websites like TMZ and NewsCorp. If it weren’t for the breadth of experience I gained working at my first post college employer I wouldn’t have known the job I have today even existed. I knew working on high traffic systems was a good fit for me because it seemed to scare people, I loved it, and my laid back vibes seemed to help put my colleagues at ease.
What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

For all its glamour the tech industry is infamous for some toxic cultural issues. I’ve been fortunate to work directly for companies that have been welcoming, inclusive, and supportive, but as a consultant I witnessed toxic tech culture first hand a few times. The culture of “men and women for others” at Holy Cross helped make me a more mindful person than I was when I first arrived on Mount St. James and gave me the tools to productively talk about social issues. I feel this has helped me be a better colleague, leader, and agent for change in an industry that has serious social challenges. I’m by no means at the forefront of this effort, and still have a lot to learn; but I absolutely credit Holy Cross for making me more prepared to take part.

I also think the way Holy Cross encourages students to explore a wide range of subjects and not simply focus on their major has helped me bring a more well rounded perspective to technical challenges. A former boss once said that I was able to, “take the often abstract concepts of programming and interpret it into a vocabulary business staff can understand”, I believe the liberal arts foundation provided by Holy Cross honed that skill.

Meet Alumna Michelle Schefter ’16, Graduate Scientist at AstraZeneca

October 12th, 2018 by aclauson

Meet Alumna Michelle Schefter ’16, Graduate Scientist at AstraZeneca

 

In one sentence, what does your job entail?

I participate in a rotational research program at AstraZeneca, where I choose three 8-month rotations in three different departments of pharmaceutical research.

 

What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I was a chemistry lab teaching assistant, as well as a student researcher in Professor Petty’s lab. I studied abroad at Trinity College Dublin for my junior year, where I participated in various activities. Upon my return, I avidly encouraged students, particularly in STEM, to consider studying abroad too. I was also a member of the club soccer team.

 

What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

 I was a chemistry major, and I had a hard time deciding what to do with it. I liked the idea of many different career options, particularly in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, but I did not feel ready to commit to medical school or a PhD program. Overall, my degree in chemistry made me eligible for entry-level jobs in both of these fields, and it also showed employers that I was competent in problem solving and other quantitative skills that are important in any industry.

 

What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?

A summer internship at a small biotechnology company opened my eyes to an industry that I had not known much about at the time. I later searched for full time positions at similar biotech and pharmaceutical companies until I eventually stumbled upon AstraZeneca’s program. It stood out for several reasons: I would get broad exposure to an industry I did not have much experience in, I would have an impact on active drug projects, and I would have the opportunity to participate in a professional development program. In other words, I saw an opportunity to learn a lot, expand my resume, and grow professionally.

 

What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

While it is important to be a diligent scientist while working at a pharmaceutical company, it is just as important to have good ‘soft skills.’ Whether it was assigning group presentations for a class or sending students to the ACS conference in San Diego, Holy Cross provided several opportunities to develop presentation and interpersonal skills and ensured that I was not only a scientist, but also a well-rounded individual upon graduation. At work, I often use these same skills to present ideas to my colleagues and network with the wider scientific community, all of which contributes to being successful in my position.

Meet Alumnus Joseph McClellan, Vice President, Biosimilars Development Lead at Pfizer

January 17th, 2018 by msweeney

Name: Joseph E. McClellan

Class Year: 1995

Title: Vice President, Biosimilars Development Lead

Organization Name: Pfizer Essential Health Research and Development, Pfizer Inc.

 

In one sentence, what does your job entail?

At Pfizer, I lead the global development of a large portfolio of biosimilars (which are highly similar with respect to physiochemical characteristics, biological activity, pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and safety to originator biologic medicines) by ensuring that all development programs are (1.) aligned with Pfizer strategy, global regulatory guidances and country regulatory feedback; (2.) delivered in a timely and cost-effective manner relative to the development plans; and (3.) developed to the highest quality standards.

 

What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I spent a lot of great time with a fabulous group of roommates and friends throughout my four years at Holy Cross.  (I still do a lot with my senior-year Alumni 23 roommates, even after over 20 years post-graduation.)  Also, I participated in Honors Research in Chemistry and was a member of the Men’s Golf Team.

 

What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I was a Chemistry major at Holy Cross with an interest in analytical chemistry and instrumentation.  After Holy Cross, I attained a Ph.D. in Chemistry and also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship, both of which developed and evolved my knowledge of analytical chemistry and instrumentation, specifically in mass spectrometry.  To this day, I still consider myself a ‘Chemist’ and ‘Mass Spectrometrist’, even though I have not been a bench scientist in over 10 years.  All of my successes in chemistry and the biopharmaceutical industry can be traced to the foundation that I learned and developed at Holy Cross.

 

What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you? 

Directly after Holy Cross, I went to the University of Florida to pursue my Ph.D. in chemistry.  I chose UF based on a strong analytical chemistry program, which I was keenly interested in based on my Honors Research at Holy Cross.  After my Ph.D. and Postdoctoral Fellowship at Boston University School of Medicine, I began my career at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in 2002, which was acquired by Pfizer Inc. in 2009.   From the outside and in retrospect, my path looks quite calculated and plodding.  However, at each turn every decision was ‘unplanned’ as none of these schools (including Holy Cross), programs, or company was my ‘first choice’ prior to the decision being made.  They all turned out to be the absolute right, best decision for me!  I have been very fortunate in this way and think that is a lesson for folks to recognize that we are often put in opportunities that provide opportunities for success and its vitally important for each individual put forth the optimum effort to succeed.  After 15 years, I am still with the same company, though I have had many distinct roles with ever evolving responsibilities throughout my career.

 

What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

At Holy Cross, I learned about analytical chemistry, instrumentation, and mass analysis, which were the early foundation for both my Ph.D. and initial career at Pfizer.  These skills are still used today as I work with development teams and assess physiochemical data for our biosimilars programs.  More importantly, I learned how to be an individual researcher and solve complicated problems on my own at Holy Cross through the Honors Research program.  While team interactions are very important in science and the biopharmaceutical industry, the ability for a scientist to solve complicated problems by his or herself is an important part for both the scientist’s and the team’s success.

My Alumni Job Shadowing Experience at Seaport Veterinary Hospital

October 11th, 2017 by eklamm

 

Name: Gillary Garcia
Class Year: 2020
Major: Religion Studies
Shadowing Visit Site: Seaport Veterinary Hospital

Describe your visit and what did you gain from the experience?

During my visit I was able to sit in appointments and see how the doctors dealt with the animals and the cases that were presented to them. I was able to scrub in and see a spay procedure be done. The doctor explained everything he was doing so I was able to understand every step of the procedure.

How did this experience influence or connect to your future career plans/goals?

I have always wanted to be a veterinarian so I was so happy to be able to participate in the alumni shadow program because I could experience what a day in a veterinary hospital is like. There was so much I learned in that one day.

What is some helpful advice your alumni host shared with you?

One piece of advice my alumni host shared with me was to be open minded for the different opportunities there are to work with animals. Working with animals is not necessarily always a hospital setting, so he told me to get out there and to try different things! The alumni advised me to become involved in volunteer work early and to really get experience with working with animals. It can be as simple as volunteering at shelters or joining summer programs. He told me to pay attention to vet school prerequisites but to also be a well-rounded student in other subjects as well.

Why would you recommend the Alumni Job Shadowing Program to other students?

I would recommend the Alumni Job Shadowing Program to other students because it is a great way for them to see what goes on in a regular day for their desired career. If a student is unsure of what they want to pursue, the alumni shadow program is a great way for them to explore new things!

Want to explore an interest? Consider applying to the Winter Break Alumni Job Shadowing Program and spend the day with an alum. Click the button below to learn more about the application process.

Meet Physics Student Dan O’Brien

May 3rd, 2017 by eklamm

 

Name: Dan O’Brien
Class Year: 2017
Title: Research Assistant
Organization Name: Georgetown University

In one sentence, what does your job entail?

This position entails implementing hands-on research in a microtechnology lab.

What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?

I originally intended to conduct research here at Holy Cross, but wanted to apply my physics degree to a research project in medicine. With this in mind, I applied to Research Opportunities for Undergraduates positions, and the lab that offered me the job conducts intriguing and progressive research in the field.

What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I participated in and served in leadership positions for the Society of Physics Students, and was a member of the Science Ambassadors. Additionally, I helped to found a student-run advising program for students in the sciences.

What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

As a physics student, I learned problem solving skills that will help me in any field in which I choose to use them. The physics faculty at Holy Cross opened my eyes to the importance of research in medicine, and I am thankful for the career lessons they have taught me.

What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

Once again, the problem solving and time management skills are two “intangibles,” per se, that I use in my everyday work. In my research position, the skills that I aggregated in laboratory courses at Holy Cross were equally crucial.

What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Get involved, be real, and follow your passions.