Melody Guan, HIP 2014

School: Harvard University, USA
Placement: Douglas Melton Lab, Harvard Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology

Melody wants to do everything. Twenty years from now, she may be the editor of a scientific journal, a college professor, or the business liaison for a major philanthropic institute. But, for now, she is a Harvard University junior, which gives her the freedom to concentrate in chemistry and physics, work in a stem cell laboratory, and write for the student newspaper on the side.

For people like Melody, HIP hosts an annual industry career night, which invites leaders in research and development from the program’s sponsors to chat with the interns about alternative career paths. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., Novartis, and Vertex participated in 2014.

“The event taught me that there’s a lot of creativity involved in an industry job, just like an academic job,” Melody said. “I want science and biomedical research to be an integral part of my future career path and so it got me really excited to at least think more seriously about industry.”

Melody’s summer at HIP involved several other lessons about what it means to do science. Her project, as assigned by HSCI Co-director (and Melody’s housemaster) Doug Melton, PhD, was to develop a new method to measure how much insulin stem cell-derived beta cells are making and secreting. A problem arose when, due to scheduling conflicts, Melody’s mentor couldn’t be in the lab with her for six weeks.

“At first, the situation was a bit intimidating, but I soon realized that it was actually a blessing in disguise,” she said. “Each time I had a question, I would ask the relevant resident expert in my lab, who would infallibly share their wealth of knowledge. As a result, I ended up having multiple mentors support me.”

Another element of the internship Melody gained from was showing the non-Harvard students—who make up half of the HIP population—exactly what Harvard is all about.

“It’s great that we’re part of the program because they’re here to use the facilities and to explore Cambridge, but if they didn’t get to actually meet and befriend Harvard students, they would be missing part of the experience,” she said. “For Harvard students, the internship is a fantastic opportunity to get funding for their research and to be able to meet all of these really cool and smart students from around the world.”