From BioTrain Intern to HudsonAlpha Employee

Quality, hands-on internship experience is one of the most valuable assets a college student can have when preparing to enter  the workforce. The HudsonAlpha BioTrain Internship Program offers students just that– a specialized internship program that equips college students with the skills and connections they need to secure their future careers. In some cases, students end up with a career at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. Read below to learn more about some of the individuals who returned to HudsonAlpha after BioTrain and how the program influenced their career path. 

Opening eyes to the breadth of biotech careers

Jennifer Serrett, Director of Process Improvement at Alimetrix – BioTrain 2013 Class 

Jennifer Serrett’s professional journey is evidence that BioTrain not only prepares, but it inspires. Originally pursuing engineering, Serrett shifted her career path after BioTrain introduced her to a real-world, scientific career. “It was a shift from the career type I was preparing for with my engineering degree,” Serrett said, “but it sparked a desire to work in a collaborative and researched-based environment.” 

With this new passion, Serret was drawn to the focus on collaboration she found at HudsonAlpha. “No one person or company is going to have all the knowledge, skill, or capacity to accomplish every goal you endeavor after, but together, well the chances are a lot higher,” Serrett said. In addition to influencing her career path, BioTrain left an impression on Serrett professionally. “I cannot give enough credit to the scientists and educators in the BioTrain program. They made a significant impact on my laboratory skill set as well as prepared me for a successful career.” 

BioTrain hosts weekly professional development sessions which separates an internship with HudsonAlpha from other lab experiences, and offering constructive career advice remains a priority of the BioTrain program. “The lesson on elevator speeches really stands out to me,” Serrett reflected, “being able to thoughtfully whittle down your message to spark deeper interest is an invaluable skill.” 

Serrett currently serves as the director of Process Improvement at Alimetrix.

Inspiring on-the-spot job offers 

Zac McGee, Research Scientist at GeneCapture, Inc. – BioTrain 2015 Class

Zac McGee is an exceptional example of the power of an internship– and a strong poster presentation. “My experience with BioTrain was not only extremely illuminating and educational but also provided innumerable professional development opportunities that were critical in furthering my career,” McGee said. 

At the culmination of his internship in 2015, McGee presented his poster showcasing his research and findings alongside his peers. McGee said, “I had the chance to present my research to the scientific and broader community via a poster session, where my now employer was an audience member. The Chief Scientist enjoyed my presentation enough that I was approached about a job at the company shortly after and I have been employed with them in a number of roles for many years now.” 

McGee has been with GeneCapture for the last seven years, and it all started with his BioTrain Internship.

Leading the path for academic success

Laramie Aközbek (nee Smith), PhD Student, Harkess Lab – BioTrain 2021 Class 

In many cases, BioTrain interns begin the program unsure of what direction their academic path will take. Laramie Aközbek began BioTrain in this position, but the exposure to genomics she had during her internship led her to the doctoral program she is in today. Aközbek said, “BioTrain immersed me in the world of plant genomics and helped me decide where I wanted to steer my career. It exposed me to how we create genomic resources for researchers, breeders, students, and more.”  

Currently, Aközbek is a PhD student at Auburn University doing her NSF GRFP-funded research at HudsonAlpha. “I am extremely fortunate to be able to carry out my research here at HudsonAlpha as part of the lab of Dr. Alex Harkess,” Aközbek said. “HudsonAlpha is a highly collaborative environment of some of the highest caliber researchers you will meet in the field of plant genomics. It is an incredible honor to be able to pursue my degree in such a setting.”

As she progresses in her PhD, Aközbek recognizes how BioTrain prepared her for the demand of a doctoral program. “Through BioTrain, I was given the opportunity to frame, manage and explore my own project, which was an excellent introduction to the nature of a professional research career,” she said. 

Aligning interests in science and business 

Abbie Ruesy, Marketing Coordinator, HudsonAlpha Economic Development – BioTrain 2021 Class 

Abbie Ruesy discovered her ideal career through her experience as an Economic Development Intern, and was hired into that role a year later. “As a microbiologist earning an MBA,” Ruesy recalled, “it was difficult looking for a job that catered to both of my interests: biology and business. However, working as an economic development intern through BioTrain provided me an opportunity to experience what that intersection of a career might look like.” 

For Ruesy, BioTrain was one of her greatest collegiate experiences prior to graduating. Through her internship, Ruesy had the unique experience of networking and collaborating with the team that would read her application for a full-time position a year later. 

Ruesy was thrilled that when she was applying to jobs after graduating, a position was open for the marketing coordinator for Economic Development at HudsonAlpha: the perfect combination of business and biology. Ruesy was hired for the position this past May and is grateful to work full-time in the environment she grew to love during her internship. “BioTrain afforded me the chance to meet incredible industry professionals to look up to as I took my first steps into my career,” Ruesy said.

Forming lasting professional relationships

Tyler Clark, Economic Development Specialist – BioTrain 2020 Class 

The foundation of relationships established during BioTrain are long lasting, as former Economic Development Intern Tyler Clark has learned in his first year as an employee at HudsonAlpha. The most valuable part of BioTrain for me was the connections I made with my peers during the program,” Clark said. “A year after completing my internship with the Economic Development team, I still work with many of my fellow BioTrain interns across different teams at HudsonAlpha and across different life science companies.”

After spending a summer alongside his BioTrain peers, Tyler formed many valuable connections that would give him more confidence and ease when he began his career at HudsonAlpha. “Those pre-existing relationships allow for a greater level of collaboration and gave me a head start in my career’s relationship-based work,” Clark said.

About BioTrain

HudsonAlpha developed the BioTrain Internship program in 2009 to offer college students the opportunity to connect classwork with real-world job experience and gain skills and knowledge that will prepare them for careers in biotechnology and related fields. BioTrain exemplifies HusdonAlpha’s dedication to education outreach by helping young people get ahead in their careers via hands-on experience, professional development, and mentorship. 

This marks the fourteenth summer HudsonAlpha has hosted around thirty top undergraduate and graduate students selected for BioTrain. Interns are welcomed to the campus during BioTech BootCamp, a week-long initiation led by Education Outreach during which the internship class is immersed in all aspects of HudsonAlpha– from Human Resources and Economic Development seminars, to coding and micro-pipetting in the lab.

After learning about all facets of the Institute’s mission, research, and goals, the BioTrain interns are turned over to their respective mentors, whom they will learn from and work with for the rest of the summer. BioTrain offers opportunities throughout the summer for interns to network and develop relationships through professional development lunches, outside activities and events, and even an intern Foosball Tournament. At the culmination of the internship, the interns join together again for a poster session where each student showcases their work from the summer. 

With two months of relevant job experience, professional development seminars, and collaboration with HudsonAlpha teams on their resumes, some interns find themselves set up to succeed in a continued role at HudsonAlpha. From Research Scientist at GeneCapture, Inc. to the Marketing Director of Economic Development, former BioTrain Interns have been grateful to establish their careers at HudsonAlpha.

Byline: Elizabeth Hobbs, BioTrain 2022 Class