Share this story

UMass Chan helps ‘Crack the Code’ at biotech career day in Worcester

Marlina Duncan, EdD, and Skyler Michaud, were panelists for the discussion “Navigating your Career in Life Sciences.”
Marlina Duncan, EdD, and Skyler Michaud, an associate scientist at EverCell Bio, were two of the panelists for the discussion “Navigating your Career in Life Sciences.”

Nearly 200 high school students gathered at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Oct. 17 for a special Career Day that included meeting with representatives from UMass Chan Medical School, Moderna and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals to learn about career paths in the life sciences and biotechnology industries.

The first day of the three-day “Cracking the Code: The Dawn of Nucleic Acid Medicines” conference was dedicated to hosting high school sophomores, juniors and seniors from seven Worcester public high schools to introduce them to biotechnology companies developing nucleic acid medicines in hopes of inspiring the next generation of leaders in biotechnology.

“We’ve seen so many students who are interested in so many different fields of science, and they're passionate about learning about the different levels of careers in biotechnology,” said Angela Messmer-Blust, PhD, associate professor of RNA therapeutics and senior scientific advisor in the RNA Therapeutics Institute at UMass Chan, and one of the organizers of the Career Day program.

Students participating in the career day came from Burncoat High School, Doherty Memorial High School, Claremont Academy, North High School, South High Community School, University Park Campus School and Worcester Technical High School.

“Having so many diverse students coming in and asking all sorts of questions and hearing some of the things they’re interested in is really an opportunity to see what’s coming and to be excited about the possibilities that these students are going to present for the future, both for the UMass Chan community and the greater Worcester community,” said Ché Anderson, assistant vice chancellor for city and community relations at UMass Chan.

Marlina Duncan, EdD, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at UMass Chan, was one of three panel members for the discussion “Navigating your Career in Life Sciences.”

Days two and three of the conference – Oct. 18 and 19 – focused on the rise of mRNA therapies and vaccines and featured panel discussions and keynote addresses from some of the top experts in the field, including Nobel laureates Phillip Sharp, PhD, and Katalin Karikó, PhD.

Anastasia Khvorova, PhD, the Remondi Family Chair in Biomedical Research, and professor of RNA therapeutics, presented “Chemical engineering of therapeutic siRNAs for extrahepatic delivery,” during the conference.

Dr. Messmer-Blust and Anderson represented UMass Chan at the career day along with Mary Pickering, PhD, director of public engagement with science for the RNA Therapeutics Institute; Holly Brown, administrative manager for the Diversity and Inclusion Office; and Sammie Doxsey, RNA Therapeutics Institute and Diversity and Inclusion Office project assistant. Jonathan Watts, PhD, professor of RNA therapeutics at UMass Chan, was a co-organizer for the scientific programs at the conference.

The conference was presented by Nature Conferences.