Skills and knowledge learned in the classroom come alive when a student takes on the challenge of a summer internship. That’s what Steve Hu, a junior in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University, discovered when he spent ten weeks working at a paid internship offered through a partnership between the Institute for NanoBioTechnology and Liquidia Technologies of Research Triangle Park, N.C.
“It was really important to have a first-hand experience in a corporate and business environment“ Hu says, “The goals of corporate research are different than goals of academic research, and it was interesting to learn about how that worked.“
Hu is no stranger to academic research settings. During the summer following his freshman year, he completed a National Science Foundation REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at the University of New Mexico Center for Micro-Engineered Materials. On the Johns Hopkins campus, he has worked in the laboratory of David Gracias, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and an INBT affiliated faculty member.
“In an academic lab, you can pursue a question for as long as you want; there are no boundaries,“ Hu says. “But in a corporate setting, you are developing a product to cater to a certain market, so you are more driven by profit. That’s not a bad thing though, because the purpose in both settings is to solve a problem.“
While working at Liquidia, Hu was fabricating and testing the behavior of polymer nanoparticles of various shapes and sizes designed to encapsulate drugs for targeted delivery. “A cylindrically shaped polymer with an aspect ratio of 5:1 would behave in a completely different way than a spherically shaped one,“ Hu says.
He conducted light scatter analyses, ran particle-size distribution tests, and used AFM (atomic force microscopy) to study the nanoparticles. “We wanted to find out what had been created and how it worked, in vitro and in vivo.“
The application process for INBT’s internship at Liquidia was not complex. Hu submitted his resume to INBT, and after an initial internal review, his application was forwarded to representatives at Liquidia who called him to North Carolina for a face-to-face interview. Hu says he fit in well with the laid-back atmosphere of the start-up company and enjoyed the camaraderie of two other interns hired over the summer. Liquidia awarded Hu both housing and a stipend for his living expenses.
Hu says he would encourage others to seek out research opportunities, whether on campus or off. “There are lots of opportunities here at Homewood or at the School of Medicine. There is probably an opportunity for everyone who wants one, so go for it!“
Future nanobio-related internships offered through INBT will be announced on the INBT Web site as they become available, so please check our “announcements“ link on the institute’s home page. Other types of research opportunities may be available through individual academic departments. Please consult your department chair for more information.
To learn more about Liquidia Technologies, go to http://liquidia.com/ .
Story by Mary Spiro