EpigenDx, located in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, is one of a handful of companies to have provided internship opportunities all 10 years of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center’s (MLSC) Internship Challenge. For small and medium-sized companies, like EpigenDx, the program has been essential to developing and retaining talent.
“We rely on our interns to fill real, much-needed roles,” said Ann Meyer, who serves as Associate Director of Operations for the company. “We’ve been fortunate enough to offer many of our interns full-time positions, but it has also been a real source of pride to see interns come through, gain experience in our lab, and move on to other roles in similar-sized or larger companies.”
EpigenDx’s own growth as a company has somewhat paralleled with the growth of the Internship Challenge. The company was founded in 2006 as a genomic and epigenomic research company specializing in disease biomarker discovery, validation and molecular diagnosis. EpigenDx originally was located in Worcester utilizing incubator space at the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) facility. Even with the geographic change to the MetroWest region of the Commonwealth, EpigenDx’s use of the Internship Challenge did not waiver.
The company is by no means alone in this region of Massachusetts in utilizing the Internship Challenge. Nearly 70 companies in the 495/MetroWest region have participated in the Internship Challenge, providing 460-plus internships. Moreover, more than 300 internships have been provided to colleges students who reside in the 495/MetroWest region. Every single city and town is represented.
EpigenDx has brought on students from institutions all across Massachusetts, including Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Clark University, and UMass Lowell. The MLSC annually provides over 500 paid internship experiences for Massachusetts college students that enhance the talent pipeline for small to medium Massachusetts life sciences companies. Twenty percent of interns immediately matriculate to full or part-time employment with their company at the end of their internship.
“I learned so much,” said Sarah Miller, who interned at EpigenDx and has now joined the company on a full-time basis. “Because it’s a smaller team here, you get to do a little bit of everything. You get experience in every single aspect of molecular genetics.”
A Southeastern Massachusetts native, Sarah earned her undergraduate degree at Salve Regina and her master’s degree through UMass Lowell’s Environmental Biotechnology Professional Science Master’s Program.
“It’s a real opportunity to see if they like this kind of work in the lab,” said EpigenDx President Liying Yan. “Our size and location offer a lot of young people convenience and opportunity. Working at EpigenDx helps interns experience what a scientific career is really like.”
The leadership team is quick to point out they see just as much benefit in training and retaining talent from the college ranks. They have attempted to recruit employees with more experience at larger companies. However, they continue to find better output from training students as “catch-alls” in the lab, enabling the interns to develop new skills and knowledge, and better understand the big picture of their work.
Our interns are blank slates for us to train,” said Ann. “They are very enthusiastic and capable of doing it all, and we get to shape their development. In a fast-paced, high throughput industry, it’s the best of both worlds.
Since its inception in 2009, the Internship Challenge has produced more than 4,000 internships at nearly 800 companies throughout Massachusetts. It has grown to be the single largest state STEM intern program in the United States, and serves as a nationwide model.
In celebration of 10 years of the Internship Challenge, past and current interns, companies, and colleges and universities are encouraged to share their story.