Training Tomorrow’s Custom Assay Development Experts: A Summer Internship Program Hosted by the LuminexPLORE Lab

UT Austin students share their experience working in our xMAP® Custom Assay Development lab this past summer

Training Tomorrow's Custom Assay Development Experts: A Summer Internship Program Hosted by the LuminexPLORE Lab

Internships in our industry aren’t particularly common, and they’re even harder to find in places like Austin, which isn’t really considered a biotech hub. However, it’s important to offer these types of programs so that students interested in a job in the life sciences field have an opportunity to explore career options that aren’t limited to academia. This is why we were so proud to offer an internship program in the LuminexPLORE Custom Assay Development Lab this past summer.

Atharwa Mankame and Chad Papenfuhs, two students at the University of Texas at Austin, spent several months working in the Custom Assay Development Lab where Development and Applications Scientist Jackie Surls, PhD, mentored them during the program. As they prepared to wrap up their internships, we asked for their feedback about their experience. They told us that they both enjoyed the program and were grateful to have had the opportunity to work on real projects while they were here.

“What’s unique about our internship opportunity is that we get to take on these projects,” Chad said, noting that he was able to work directly with customers. In one project, he helped to determine whether Luminex assays could be used to detect guide RNAs for a company running CRISPR gene editing workflows. “It’s been fun to have real responsibility in the biotech world,” he adds.

For his role, Atharwa relied on his operations management focus at school to analyze process flows to analyze process flows, identifying bottlenecks and making recommendations about how to streamline resource allocation. For example, he suggested that exploring options to help standardize the time it takes to review project contracts could allow the team to better predict when staff resources would be needed for new custom assay programs. He also mentioned that he appreciated the opportunity to present this and other projects he worked on while here to the Luminex team.

Both interns credit Jackie’s management style with fostering an interesting and challenging environment. “Jackie’s been great. She told me to take the initiative and go for it when I suggested projects,” Atharwa says. “That allowed me to explore areas I wasn’t familiar with.”

When asked about their plans for their own careers, Atharwa told us he intends to go to medical school and hopes to be able to consult on technology development once he’s a physician. Chad, who plans to complete a PhD in microbiology and then work in the biotech industry, is hopeful that the connections he made here will come in handy down the road. We’re not looking forward to saying goodbye to our interns, but we are so proud of everything they’ve accomplished during their time at Luminex.

As Atharwa and Chad head back to full-time classes, they offered some advice to future interns: summer break is a great time for a training program, because there’s less competition between school coursework and the internship. This approach also lets interns spend bigger blocks of time in the lab, which Atharwa notes is important to be able to see an assay all the way through.

We’re thankful to our interns for their valuable contributions during their time with us, and to our team members for helping make this important program such a success!

Although next year’s program is still a ways away, if you’re interested in learning more about the xMAP Technology our interns employed during their time here, we have a variety of in-depth resources to learn more about custom assay development. Download the xMAP® Cookbook, a collection of methods and protocols for developing multiplex assays, or click here to learn more about LuminexPLORE Lab, a custom services program designed to accelerate your research.

Interested in developing your own assays? Get started with the xMAP Cookbook