Student Voices: Erica Rowane Bautista: My Summer Internship with Merck

10/05/2016

This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern with Merck at their headquarters site in Kenilworth, NJ. I was assigned to the Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics, and Drug Metabolism (PPDM) – Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, and Excretion (ADME) department.

From the beginning, I was both excited yet intimidated by the opportunity. I lacked the knowledge and experience in pharmacology research. I didn’t know what to expect of my internship project as well as internship experience itself, especially with such a large company. I expected these feelings of nervousness to subside after a few weeks. However, I met other fellow interns. They all seemed to have had previous research experience at their respective university institutions relating to their department, as well as their specific project. On top of that, they were all upcoming college seniors or graduate school students. Not only was I probably the most inexperienced intern, but I was also the youngest! At that point I questioned why I was even offered the internship position.

The first two weeks consisted of mainly training modules and reading published papers related to my project. It was not until Week 4 of my internship that I finally began to feel comfortable with the internship atmosphere. I was fortunate to have not one, but three awesome internship mentors throughout my entire program. Elizabeth “Beth” Joshi and Jennie Lin were my main project supervisors and mentors, whereas Lin Xie was my “internship experience” mentor who taught me more about the pharmaceutical industry as a business.

My internship project focused on evaluating an assay to measure intracellular drug concentrations. Particularly, I investigated a published thesis that introduced a new method quantifying such values via Rapid Equilibrium Dialysis. In a span of 3 weeks, I learned to culture and maintain cells and execute an experiment from a published paper. I initially had no experience or knowledge with such experimental skills and techniques and thus spent the first few weeks bombarding my mentors with questions. By the end, I was able to work on my own in the lab and perform all my experiments independently!

It wasn’t until the end of my internship during the Summer Internship Expo that I truly realized the importance of my work; it wasn’t such a menial project after all. Many employees approached me and were genuinely curious and fascinated with my work! Several were impressed with the timeline of my project and my ability to acquire laboratory skills within weeks.

That day was probably the day I realized the true intention of this internship – to foster my individual, professional, academic, and personal growth. Though they could have chosen a more experienced intern and assigned a more complex project, Beth and Jennie chose me to have the opportunity for such an enriching experience. I was able to have my very first experience in a laboratory research setting, with a major pharmaceutical company at that! I was also constantly surrounded by self-driven, motivated, and dedicated people who all fostered a love for science and working towards benefiting society. It truly made me appreciate the pharmaceutical research industry and develop this new interest in pharmaceutical research. It’s safe to say that my career goals would be to matriculate into medical school and become a physician while still being able to participate in pharmaceutical research. I definitely learned a lot about myself and developed new skills that I would not have been able to without this amazing internship.