Testing the Industry Waters: Student Internships
By Michael Barnes

Rebecca Lamothe and Alec Heckert are two MCB grad students from different parts of the world, with different research interests and different goals. Yet they have one thing in common — both have just completed summer internships in industry and they praise the experience.

Rebecca Lamothe
Rebecca Lamothe is a member of Douglas Koshland's lab.

Lamothe was born in Haiti and moved to Boston with her family when she was 12. She studies chromosome structure in the Koshland lab. Heckert grew up in Woodinville, WA. A biophysical chemist, he studies protein structure in the Tjian/Darzacq Group.

Lamothe interned at the Palo Alto site of Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. She worked in the growing field of immuno-oncology — enhancing the body’s immune response to direct it to attack cancer cells. She helped develop new bioassays to measure how tumors respond to therapies. “I really enjoyed my internship with Merck,” Lamothe says. “Researchers from many different scientific disciplines worked together, and more of them were women than I expected.” Lamothe now finds herself drawn towards working in industry. However, she adds, “There are many things I love about academia, especially teaching.”

Alec Heckert
Alec Heckert is a member of the Darzacq/Tjian lab group.

Heckert interned with Caribou Biosciences, a South Berkeley startup led by MCB alumna Rachel Haurwitz. At first, Heckert was drawn to the company by their published work applying bioinformatics approaches to problems in gene editing. Later he came to appreciate the differences he noticed between academia and industry.

“Working at Caribou has absolutely changed how I see what happens outside academia,” says Heckert. “While Caribou has research divisions that are similar to research groups in academia, as a company it has very clear objectives.” Although the Bay Area has more job opportunities, Heckert longs to return to his native Pacific Northwest. His internship has given him more insights on possible careers on both sides of the academia/ industry boundary.