Shadow Day benefits students, companies

Sep 29, 2010

When Dr. Lisa Olson, Senior Director of Immunology at Abbott Laboratories, is looking to hire, she has difficulty finding entry-level candidates with experience or course work in pharmacology. That’s why she jumped at the chance to host students at the first statewide Biotechnology Job Shadow Day.

“We have a responsibility to try to increase the interest in science and support science education,” Olson said. “I think this is one way of doing that in the sense that these students got to see what science and lab work can  translate into a job.”Millennium

On June 8, 13 Massachusetts high schools sent 350 students to 12 biotechnology companies across the state to participate in Biotechnology Job Shadow Day, which was sponsored and organized by MassBio and the

Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd). The event pairs students with professionals in hopes of building Massachusetts’ future biotechnology workforce.

Students said the event gave them the opportunity to explore and develop a better understanding of the biotech industry and the careers available to them. Companies that took part in the event saw benefits to allowing students to get a first-hand look at their industry as well.

“I think it gives students a real life experience or appreciation for what doing science as a career actually means,” said David Reif, Associate Director of Cancer Research at AstraZeneca and chairman of the MassBioEd Foundation Board of Directors. “This event was a way for our scientists to reach out to up-and- coming high school students that may have an interest in science careers.”

Francis McLoughlin, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications of Cubist Pharmaceuticals, had a student shadow him for the day. He was paired up with a student from Lexington High School who, according to McLoughlin, showed interest in a variety of fields in the biotech industry.

EMD“He was interested in legal issues having to do with pharmaceuticals, and had some really advanced questions for me,” McLoughlin said. “I think that a lot of the students became interested in the fact that biopharmaceutical companies are not all about sciences.”

McLoughlin explained that he left the day with a feeling that students began to understand that there are a lot of other aspects that go into the business of biotechnology, and there is plenty of opportunity to find an area that may be of interest to them in the future.

Abbott, AstraZeneca and Cubist have all expressed interest in participating in the next job shadow event.

“As I was looking out at the crowd at the end of the day, the students looked tired but the employees looked like they wanted to do it again right away,” Reif said.

The next Biotechnology Job Shadow Day will be held October 27. Companies interested in hosting students can contact Suzanne Grillo at

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