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YWIB-San Francisco and BioMarin Present: "Curious About Careers in Biotechnology? Take a Look Into our Rare story!," November 13, 2018

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Monday, May 27, 2019

On November 13, 2018, BioMarin in Novato hosted a group of 37 high school girls and took them on a journey to explore what life is like in the cutting-edge biotech industry. The evening started with an introduction by an analytical scientist from Research and Development where she shared her story of how she navigated through an academic career before landing her dream job at BioMarin. The girls then viewed videos of patient stories which helped them appreciate the impact that gene therapies, created by pharmaceutical companies like BioMarin, have on their lives and on the community. 

Following the introductory session, the students were taken on a tour of the Manufacturing Department to show them what Quality Labs look like. They also had the opportunity to demo and act out the complex process of entering a “Clean-Room”- this was both funny and intriguing to them as they learned of the effort that goes into maintaining a sterile environment and what it means to protect a drug product.

The evening ended with a panel discussion between the students and a group of eight accomplished women from different departments such as Process Development, Manufacturing Sciences, Technology Development, and Quality Assurance where each panelist shared their personal stories, gave advice on navigating college, and deciding on careers in STEM. The students found the discussion very stimulating and helpful. Some of the key takeaways from the panel were quite inspirational:

“I learned to stay confident and trust myself and I can do whatever I want to! “
“Don’t be scared to take the step you need to take to be successful in life.”
“Many different paths people have taken to get to where they are."
“Never give up on yourself and understand you can do anything.”

Overall, the visit was a great success with most students wanting to attend more events like this in the future.

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YWIB-San Francisco: College Track Event, September 4, 2018

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Monday, May 27, 2019

Young Women In Bio - San Francisco Bay Area has partnered with College Track - Oakland to bring hands-on STEM experiences to young women.  On September 4, 2018, Young Women In Bio hosted the first of four events on-site at the Oakland offices. The focus of this first program was developmental biology with nine freshman girls in attendance.

The event began with an overview of developmental biology by Dr. Tanvi Sinha who is a Cell and Developmental Biologist at the University of California, San Francisco.  Dr. Sinha discussed the stages of embryonic development, how long it takes in humans vs. animals, and what the stages look like.

After the lesson, YWIB volunteers - Jenn Kim, Leah Makley and Jennifer Lewis - assisted the students with a challenging matching activity where various stages of embryonic development in different species of animals were given and the students had to identify the animal and stage.  
The students discovered that a majority of the species looked similar which taught them why researchers use small species, such as mice, to study to human development.  The students and volunteers also discussed the ethical considerations that researchers consider when using embryos for their work. Dr. Sinha then brought several mice embryos at mid-gestation stages for the students to observe. Many of the students were excited to see an actual embryo!

The second portion of the program was a hands-on activity with chick embryos.  Dr. Sinha provided fertilized chick eggs at various developmental stages to allow the students to explore and identify the process of embryonic development on their own.  The YWIB volunteers and students discussed that it takes 21 days for a chick to develop fully and that there is a difference between store-bought eggs and fertilized eggs used for research.  

Once each of the “lab” stations were ready with gloves, beakers, magnifying glasses and 2-3 eggs, the students followed Dr. Sinha in learning how to crack and open the chick egg.  From there they were able to see embryos from stages 3 to 5 days since fertilization. The students were amazed to see the heartbeats and begin to identify the formation of the chick.  One student said that her favorite part of the event was “opening the eggs, seeing the heartbeat, and becoming a mother - tear.” 

After all the eggs were opened and analyzed, the students had a wrap-up with Dr. Sinha and the YWIB volunteers where they asked Dr. Sinha more about her education and career and share their favorite parts of the day.  

The students provided feedback from the event and overwhelmingly reported that they enjoyed cracking the eggs and loved the surprise of what they would discover. They also shared that having a hands-on activity created a fun and informative experience.  

YWIB - San Francisco Bay Area is thankful to College Track - Oakland for highlighting the importance of STEM for young girls by carving out a space for engagement in their curriculum and offices.  This initial event left the students wanting to learn more and the volunteers are excited to build off this success!

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WIB-San Francisco YWIB: Clovis Oncology Job Shadowing Day for Lincoln High School Students, April 11, 2018

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Monday, May 27, 2019

Career Advice for Young Women In Science, from Women in Science
 
While the San Francisco Bay Area continues to be an important hub for leading biotech firms, women are still significantly underrepresented in STEM jobs. Fortunately, a number of high schools in San Francisco are cultivating a pool of talent for the biotech industry.  The biotech career pathway programs at Raoul Wallenberg High School, Galileo Academy of Science and Technology and Abraham Lincoln High School are engaging students in work-based learning opportunities that support their technical education in biotechnology.
 
During the San Francisco Unified School District’s Spring Break, Clovis Oncology provided a work-based learning opportunity to 7 young women of the Abraham Lincoln High School’s biotech program.  With the help of Young Women In Bio (YWIB), Clovis Oncology provided each of the 7 young women with a mentor for a job shadow experience. Each mentor represented various areas of expertise in the biotech industry -- human resources, clinical research and operations, business analytics, commercial operations and project leadership. 
 
While the girls experienced a day-in-the-life of a professional in biotech, one of the biggest takeaways from their job shadow day was the advice they received from their mentors. Having had some time to look back and think about what they’ve learned during their career journeys, the mentors shared some advice with the young women that can help them navigate through their education and career journeys.
 
Here are 10 pieces of advice that the Clovis Oncology mentors provided the young women in science:

1) Your entry-level job is important. Getting an entry-level job is one of the most important things you can do to springboard your career. An entry-level job is important work experience and many jobs will ask for at least 2 to 3 years of work experience before they will even consider you for the position. An entry-level job will provide you with the workplace skills that you can bring to your next job. Volunteering is also considered work experience. So, volunteer and gain experience.

2) Learn how to manage your money. The transition from high school to college or career often excludes money management courses or training on how to budget your money. Managing your finances is a huge part of adulthood. Educating yourself about understanding your finances, how to deal with bank accounts, how to pay for college, how to budget and how to invest your savings will save you large amounts of debt in the future. Even more so, you will be much more independent and in control of your life. So, while you are still in high school, take some courses on money management or financial literacy.

 3) Keep in touch with mentors and professors. Reach out. Don’t be shy. Be self-motivated. Keep in touch with your mentors and professors. They are part of your network and a great resource to help you navigate your next journey after graduation. They might even have opportunities for you. The relationships that you make today can be helpful to you throughout your career path.

 4) Look backwards and connect the dots. Sometimes life gives you these little events and they look meaningless, but when you reflect on them later, they are really dots that connect with these lines that make sense on your life’s journey. So, even if something seems meaningless now, it will make greater sense in the future as you move forward in your career path. Looking backwards and connecting the dots will also help you realize what you enjoy and what motivates you. Hence, take some time to reflect and connect the dots to help you make the best career choices in the future.

5) Go wherever you fit in, where you can afford. Go and have fun and the learning will follow. And if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, it’s okay because you will learn from that experience. The door will open up when the timing is right. In the meantime, do not rack up lots of educational debt because it is not worth it.

6) Be entrepreneurial and create your part-time job. Young people are busier, savvier and more creative nowadays. If traditional part-time jobs don’t seem to fit into your schedule, think of about what you enjoy doing already and turn it into a part-time job. Do you enjoy math and have a clever way of solving problems? Consider hosting a workshop on the weekends and share your expertise with your peers and younger children.

7) You are your best advocate. Go on informational interviews and learn from the people you meet. This is also a good way to hone your interviewing skills and improve the way you present yourself. Take advantage of the opportunities around you. This can also mean creating opportunities for yourself by asking people in your network if they know of any organizations that could use someone with your set of skills.

8) Don’t accept “no” for an answer. Do not simply accept a “no” for an answer. Be persistent. If necessary, find another way of asking the question or another way of turning a missed opportunity into the perfect opportunity for you. Women don’t ask for things for themselves often enough. Men are more likely to ask. So, don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t ask the question, you may never get the answer you are looking for.

9) It’s not where you go to college or the job you have that matters, it’s what you make of it. Make the most of the opportunities that are provided to you. If you have a chance to learn new skills, learn them. If you have a part-time job right now, excel in that position. Your industrious and smart work ethic will be appreciated by those who work with you and you will be rewarded in the future. 10) Know how to pivot. Your career journey will most likely involve many turns and unexpected surprises. When this happens, know how to pivot and take the next path that will help launch (or relaunch) your career. To pivot, recognize your set of skills and how you’ve acquired them along your educational and career journey. Then think about how you can take those skills to your next job. In every job, you will acquire transferrable skills that are applicable to different kinds of industries. Collect these skills and use them wisely to help you navigate your career journey.

Kindly written/provided by Jennielyn Dino Rossi, California Life Sciences Institute, April 11, 2018

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WIB-San Francisco: “Practice Your Networking Skills” – YWIB event at Wallenberg High School in San Francisco, February 20, 2018

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Monday, May 27, 2019

On February 20, 2018, Wallenberg High School and members of the WIB-San Francisco Young Women In Bio committee co-hosted the event “Practice Your Networking Skills!” for high school and community college students studying in the San Francisco Bay Area. The students directly interacted with women from various bioscience organizations. First, students heard about the diverse roles that the professional women hold. Then, in small groups, they asked questions and discussed their own skills, interests, and goals with the professionals. The students enjoyed the opportunity to practice networking in an encouraging and friendly setting.

WIB-San Francisco YWIB committee member Karla Lindquist and facilitators from the San Francisco Unified School District, City College of San Francisco, and the California Life Sciences Institute kick-started the evening with introductions. Then, 12 networking mentors, who are professionals involved in the local biotech industry, gave “Elevator Pitches”. These demonstrated how to introduce yourself when networking or being interviewed. The Elevator Pitches included a description of each individual’s current role, place of work, what they enjoy most about their work, what they hope to contribute to science, and why it matters.

After hearing the example pitches, students were given the opportunity to develop their own elevator pitches using a form with blanks for them to fill in. They were then given six consecutive opportunities to deliver their pitches at tables, each with two mentors and 3-4 students. The professionals stayed put, at their tables, and the students rotated around in groups. This allowed the students to get advice and feedback from each of the mentors. Mentors reported a marked improvement in the students pitches by the sixth rotation!

The event concluded with a pizza dinner and informal networking session where students continued conversations with the mentors and their peers. There were 17 students from local high schools and 3 from a community college. The feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive. One student observed: “Women from all different backgrounds can really make a difference”. Another student was excited about “Learning about all the possibilities in the biotech field”. 

One volunteer, Lucia Mokres, a Biotechnology Entrepreneurial Consultant, concluded that “students learned how to craft an introduction that will inspire anyone they approach to engage with them in a meaningful way”. Another volunteer, Chancy Fessler, a Senior Research Associate at Nektar Therapeutics, observed that “students asked questions that related directly to what they were interested in and received real-world applicable feedback.” Overall, the professional mentors reported that, as one put it, the “experience was wonderful and very rewarding”.

Photos by: Jennielyn Dino Rossi and Stephany Reeves

 

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WIB-San Francisco YWIB: “Dancing with the Flu” - The Science Behind Antibody Discovery and Production, February 6, 2018

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Monday, May 27, 2019

On February 6, 2018, Genentech hosted an event called “Dancing with the Flu” for 36 middle and high school girls from the San Francisco Bay Area at their headquarters in South San Francisco, CA. This event was meant to inspire girls to pursue careers in science, expose them to a spectrum of careers in biology, and introduce them to Genentech’s mission to create an antibody to neutralize the flu. This event featured a hands-on activity that put into perspective how antibodies work, followed by tours of the pilot purification plant and Genentech campus, and concluded with talks and a Q&A session with a panel of professional women at all levels of their careers.

Following introductions to the Young Women In Biology (YWIB) program and Genentech, the event began with an interactive activity where the girls learned about the mechanisms by which antibody specificity works, how scientists have engineered dual-specific antibodies, and how pathogens can mutate and alter their antigens. Volunteers raised their arms in Y-formation to act as the arms of antibodies; wore different colored gloves to represent Fab regions, or specific areas on antibodies where antigens bind; and grabbed balloons of matching color to mimic the specificity of antigen binding. After this activity, the girls watched a video put together by Genentech that highlighted how the flu works, the current state of flu treatment, and how scientists are working together to create a universal antibody to neutralize the flu. They learned that communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration are essential to finding effective solutions to real-world problems.

The night ended with a panel of Genentech women who shared their journeys and how they use their own perspectives and skill sets every day in their careers. The panelists emphasized the importance of being open-minded in exploring your interests, and the beauty of finding applications for your passions. A common theme that arose from the conversations was that keeping curious and following what excites you ultimately yields the most fruitful experiences. All of the panelists came from a broad range of different backgrounds, but were each able to find a way to apply their unique skill sets to science in their own ways. The girls were encouraged to persevere and pursue their dreams regardless of what others say. One panelist shared how she had felt discouraged growing up because ‘girls weren’t supposed to be good at math and science,’ stressing to the girls to make it their own decisions to dis-cover what they’re good at and who they’re supposed to be.

To learn more about Genentech’s goal to neutralize all known strains of the flu, click here.

Written by: Jennifer Kim

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