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Cornell University


Wednesday, November 18, 2015
A Day in the Life: Cornell Students Shadow Biogen Employees

“What’s it like to work in industry?” 
“How does a typical day look for you?” 
“How does research at a company differ from academia or industry?” 
“What makes your work interesting and challenging?” 

These were some of the questions asked of Biogen employee Cherié Butts when she served on a panel at Cornell University as part of its BEST (Broadening Experience in Scientific Training) program symposium earlier this year. BEST is the NIH-funded program designed to rethink training of PhDs and prepare them for careers beyond academic research. Dr. Butts noted that it is difficult to appreciate what it is really like to work in industry without a hands-on experience. This sparked the idea of PhD graduate students coming to Biogen. 

Biogen held its first Shadow Program on November 5th, in which students were paired with one or two Biogen scientists to spend a day attending project team meetings; witnessing experiments in the lab; learning about different technologies at Biogen; understanding how the company develops its strategy; and discovering the ins-and-outs of how the Shadow Partner’s role contributes to Biogen’s success. The day began with an overview of Biogen presented by Tara Place (University Relations) and a panel that included Corporate Strategy postdocs (Laura Ellis, Erik Gutierrez); Research postdocs (Haiyan Peng, Lizhi Cao); and a Cornell alum (Matthew Marrichi) – pictured below.

Each student was then escorted by his/her Shadow Partner(s) to learn about different parts of the organization:

Biogen Shadow Partner Biogen Department Cornell BEST Trainee Cornell Graduate Field
Jane Atkins Program Leadership & Business Operations Matthew Verosloff Molecular Biology & Genetics
John Carulli Computational Biology/Genetics Nattakan Sukomon Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Brian Grabiner Computational Biology/Genetics Siddarth Chandrasekaran Biophysical Chemistry
Thomas Cameron Biologics Drug Discovery Siddarth Chandrasekkaran Biophysical Chemistry
John Kulman Biologics Drug Discovery Sachi Horibata Molecular Medicine
Peter Juhasz Proteomics Jordanna Bloom Biochemistry, Molecular & Cell Biology
George Moniz Chemistry, Manufacturing & Controls Ezen Choo Pharmacology
Dania Rabah Neuropharmacology Hannah Watkins Biomedical Engineering
Andrea Ciarlet Quantitative Biology/ Cell & Protein Science Hannah Watkins Biomedical Engineering
Karl Schmidt Global Biomarker Discovery & Development Ian Price Biochemistry, Molecular & Cell Biology
Christian Schubert Corporate Strategy Alberto Purwada Biomedical Engineering
Cherié Butts, Biogen Facilitator Susi Varvayanis, Cornell Facilitator

At the end of the day, students reconvened to talk about the experience: the role; what makes it interesting; what are some of the challenges; and what kind of person might be a best fit given the responsibilities. They will also share what was learned with the Cornell University community in the near future. 


Article and images provided by Cherié Butts


Biogen's CEO, George Scangos visited Cornell at the invitation of Alumni Affairs and Development. His videotaped talk "Risk/Reward of Biotechnology Innovation: Can We Afford Not To?" is now available via CornellCast.