CNS Career Center and Project Onramp Drive Paid Internship Opportunities for UMass Pell Grant Recipients
For Riley Cordeau, completing a summer internship at a Boston-area biotechnology research company on the cusp of his graduation this year was like using a GPS from the UMass Amherst campus to a place he has never been before. The turn-by-turn directions, which seemed unpredictable at times, eventually brought him straight to his destination.
“My summer internship has completely given me the necessary foundation to start pursuing my professional career. Following my internship, I received a job offer to join the company full time, where I will now begin constructing my future. I will take away how important it is to absorb anything and everything that is thrown at you,” said Cordeau, who majored in biochemistry and molecular biology at UMass Amherst. He started his new job as an associate process engineer at Be Biopharma in Cambridge, Mass., this month.
Janet Bordwin, College of Natural Sciences Career and Professional Development Center director, couldn’t be happier for Cordeau and the 11 other CNS students who she helped place in 8–10-week paid summer internships at life sciences, biotechnology and medical devices industries thanks to a first-time alliance with Project Onramp Boston.
"My summer internship has completely given me the necessary foundation to start pursuing my professional career. Following my internship, I received a job offer to join the company full time, where I will now begin constructing my future." - Riley Cordeau,
Project Onramp, launched in 2020 by Boston nonprofit Life Science Cares, helps connect Federal Pell Grant-assisted students at Massachusetts colleges with Boston region biotech companies seeking summer interns.
When Bordwin heard about the program this winter, it was almost too late for new applicants this year, but she stepped on the gas and made it happen. Experiential learning, be it an internship, co-op, research or project is just the ticket needed to help all students combine their in-class academics with the real world to give them career experience and the confidence to pursue their next career opportunity.
“Our role (at the career center) is to help them get their first destination of choice, right? If it helps them forge a career path for their whole lives, great. But when talking to students who are overwhelmed about what they’re going to do the rest of their lives because they are unsure, we focus on what can get you to the first destination because they will learn so much. And for some students the first destination is an internship,” Bordwin said.
Microbiology student Louiza Tizi-ougdal said she is grateful for her internship at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge biopharmaceutical company, because she acquired new skills in a laboratory setting.
“I worked in a lab-based position this summer and it is my goal to work in a similar setting in the future, so I gained a lot of experience handling the machinery, techniques, and connecting with my coworkers, which are major stepping stones for my future career path,” said Tizi-ougdal. “I also believe that no matter what it is that I end up pursuing in the future, the experiences and skills that I have gained this summer will help me excel and build my knowledge for any role.”
Other Boston-area biotech firms that hosted CNS interns through Project Onramp included Blueprint Medicine, C4 Therapeutics, Delphia, EYE POINT Pharma, Foundation Medicine, GRO Biosciences, New England Biolabs, Repertoire and Tessera.
"No matter what it is that I end up pursuing in the future, the experiences and skills that I have gained this summer will help me excel and build my knowledge for any role. "-Louiza Tizi-ougdal
Bordwin was also able to assist two students who do not live inside the I-495 corridor find housing at UMass Amherst’s Mount Ida Campus and secure $500 each toward their housing costs through a CNS student success fund. For next year, she hopes more students who live outside eastern Massachusetts can utilize the Newton, Mass. campus.
CNS Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Elizabeth Connor, who is also a biology professor, attended the Project Onramp internship showcase in Cambridge in mid-August. She said it was wonderful to see UMass Amherst, a public university, so well represented there.
“This is a great way to invest in the commonwealth and to invest in the UMass student. They are not from out of state and attending Tufts, B.U. or B.C.…They actually are going to stay around and contribute to the economy of Massachusetts,” Connor said.
In total, 27 UMass Amherst students participated either through the CNS Career and Professional Development Center or through their former high schools, other organizations or programs. Most were CNS students, the remaining were students from the Manning College of Computer Sciences, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Sciences.
“We’re all in. This has been an outstanding success in year one,” Connor said. “We’re looking forward to continuing our participation and expanding the representation of our students in Project Onramp.”
This November, Bordwin and the CNS career center staff are planning information sessions for interested students to prepare them for the next application and hiring cycle for Project Onramp internships. For more information on the CNS Career and Professional Development Center program and its services, visit https://www.umass.edu/natural-sciences/advising/careers, or reach out to Janet Bordwin at jbordwin [at] umass [dot] edu (jbordwin[at]umass[dot]edu) to learn more about Project Onramp.