Divina Newman and Nika Pierre joined the Camena team for 8 weeks over the summer. It was initially 6 but such was their committment to learning and contribution to ongoing projects, we asked them to stay.
We're immensely proud of their accomplishments and the programme enriched the whole team. We asked Divina and Nika to share their experiences.
Tell people a bit about you
Divina: I’ve just finished my second year BSc Biology at the University of Nottingham. I heard about the programme from my tutor group and applied last minute in the midst of many other deadlines - I’m very grateful I took those few hours back in November!
Nika: I’m a third-year student at the University of Warwick studying Medicinal Chemistry. I’ve been aware of the programme for a few years but it was only recently that the option to apply for pharmaceutical and life science placements became available.
What motivated you to apply?
Divina: I initially wanted to improve my lab skills as my laboratory practicals at university have been limited due to the pandemic, but can say I’ve learnt so much more!
Nika: Prior to applying I had no work experience in labs beyond undergraduate labs. I hoped to learn about the different types of job roles available after graduating and to see how my degree is applied to the working world.
What does the application process look like?
Divina: The application process was simple and involved an application form, CV and short personal statement. I was invited to interview and within a couple of weeks was offered a place.
Nika: Soon after submitting my application I was contacted and after a few Zoom calls was offered an internship. The team were extremely helpful during the onboarding process, advising on accommodation and transport since I’m not local to Cambridge. Before starting I was invited to attend an induction day which I found beneficial as was able to meet the team and familiarise myself with the area.
Describe the sort of work you’ve been involved in
Divina: I’ve been given a lot of freedom, planning my own days and experiments using existing systems within the company. I’ve completed three projects and have learned new planning techniques such as PDCA system (plan, do, check, act), which has been extremely useful to baseline and refer back to as experiments progress.
Nika: My main responsibility has been ownership of a couple projects which will contribute to optimising the current processes that the company uses. I was introduced to R&D software tools which are used to plan and carry out experiments. I’ve become familiar with include new processes and techniques such as DNA quantification, DNA purification, polymerase chain reactions, transformations, running agarose gels, plating and picking colonies and sequencing alignment.
What about skills outside the lab?
Divina: My progress was monitored regularly in 1-2-1’s where we worked to identify growth areas, with opportunities to ask more general questions about careers in science and seek personal advice. Team meetings also gave me the opportunity to present my work and helped with future goal setting. Working in a new environment and using new techniques, I have been encouraged to problem solve independently, seeking advice if I get stuck. This has massively enhanced the confidence I have in my problem-solving skills.
Nika: Alongside my project, I have been able to practise using Python and attend scientific events.
Reflecting on your experience, are there any memorable takeaways?
Divina: I’ve gained experience in what is largely considered to be the science capital of the country and have learnt so much about a variety of roles available in the life sciences industry, as well as the culture and team environment of a biotech start-up.
Nika: Interning at Camena has pushed me in many ways, experiencing issues in projects has encouraged me to troubleshoot in a more structured way. It highlighted the type of work environment I would like to see myself in.
Final words of advice to anyone thinking about applying to the programme?
Divina: This summer, I’ve massively grown as a scientist. My lab skills have improved tenfold and I have been able to take responsibility for my own learning, a skill I will take with me through my education and then career. This programme has been an amazing opportunity and I’m so pleased to have had such a positive experience of full-time work. I’m excited to see where the rest of my journey in the life sciences will take me.
Nika: To anyone contemplating applying for the 10,000 Black Interns Programme, I suggest you go for it! Without applying I would have missed out on this opportunity, which has been really insightful and worthwhile.
We’ll be keeping in touch with Divina and Nika and wish them every success with their studies and future career. Watch this space….