Every Project Onramp intern shares certain qualities: intellect, drive, a passion for science and an interest in helping people.

Beyond that, each of our interns has unique stories to tell—stories about where they came from, what drives them, and what they hope to accomplish in their careers. Here’s a look at just a few of our interns!

Home Town: San Diego, CA
College: University of California, San Diego
Department: Biology Research
Company: Mirati Therapeutics

Sharlyn Figueroa

University of California San Diego student Sharlyn Figueroa was often sick as a child in the Philippines. Since she was constantly in and out of the hospital, Sharlyn got to spend a lot of time with her aunt, a doctor.

“From a very young age, I have always admired her, so I wanted to be a doctor, too. I thought it looked fun, and I wanted to take care of people. She was very influential in that way,” recalls Sharlyn.

Sharlyn’s childhood experience and competitive nature set her on an ambitious path to make a difference in the world. She was determined to “do as many amazing things as possible.” That passion and mindset didn’t change when she moved from the Philippines to the United States at nine.

Sharlyn’s hard work and dedication led her to the University of California at San Diego, where she is a human biology major. When the opportunity to apply for a Project Onramp internship arose, Sharlyn leaped at the chance.

“Had I not gotten that internship, I was just going to be a barista for the summer,” she explained.

In true form, Sharlyn overprepared for her interview at Miradi Therapeutics, a biotech company developing drugs for specific cancer targets. On Sharlyn’s 21st birthday, she learned the good news that she landed the internship. She spent the summer in the lab at Miradi, running both in vitro and in vivo studies.

“I was actually able to run my own study with a small group of mice that we were able to compare to the real study, and we got similar results, which was exciting,” she said of the in vivo studies.

For the in vitro studies, she enjoyed learning about tissue culture and the different cell lines. However, one thing she didn’t anticipate learning about was presentations.

“When they told me I was interning in a lab, I wasn’t expecting to have to present, but I am glad they threw me that curveball because I was so scared of presenting.”

By the end of the summer, she was not only a confident presenter but much more confident in herself. She credits her mentors at Miradi with that change. They taught her both the science and how to be more confident. She felt like “a completely different person” after the internship ended.

The Project Onramp internship at Miradi taught Sharlyn that she “enjoys working in the lab and contributing to a better future in treatments and drug development.” Yet, she’s not one to put all her eggs in one basket, so she is still deciding if she wants to pursue a career in the lab.

“I was really happy that I could reflect on my experience and think, ‘I could do this, and I’m pretty good at it, too.’ That’s where the value of that experience comes in for me, which is really important,” Sharlyn explained.

From the perspective of both a first-generation college student and immigrant, Sharlyn never thought she could go to college, let alone have access to internships like the one at Miradi. The Project Onramp experience has been invaluable for those reasons and many more.

“I went from feeling so small and insecure to, ‘I belong here, and there’s space for me here. And at a certain point, I want to be able to also make that space for others.’”

Undoubtedly, she will.

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Home Town: San Diego, CA
College: University of California San Diego
Department: Lab Research
Company: Equillium

Jose Luis Rodriguez

When Jose Luis Rodriguez entered the University of San Diego, he was a biology major planning to attend medical school after graduation. That plan changed after he landed a Project Onramp internship.

Jose was part of the first Project Onramp cohort in San Diego, interning at Equillum, an immunology lab. It was there he discovered a love for working in the lab.

“I realized I really enjoy doing research in the lab. I was worried I wouldn’t, but I really do. Because of that, I’ve pivoted away from the end goal of medical school,” Jose explained.

However, it didn’t begin that way. Jose was nervous at the start of the internship, feeling like he didn’t have the necessary experience. It was his first time working in a wet lab, so everything was new.

He admitted, “I got there and spent the first two months confused by everything.”

But he dug in, asked questions, and threw himself into the internship under the guidance of his mentor, Delaina Chew, a research scientist. Jose worked on activating and isolating primary cells and learning about flow cytometry. He would also analyze work and present his results.

For Jose, the best part of the internship was transitioning from a confused intern to a knowledgeable, key team member.

“That conceptual understanding of what’s going on is the most gratifying experience of the internship,” he explained. “It was feeling like I belong, and I know what’s going on.”

In fact, Jose became such a vital member of the Equillium team that he was presented with a job offer after the summer concluded. Of course, he jumped at the chance and is now working in the lab at Equillium when he’s not at school. His persistence, natural curiosity, and presentation skills had clearly left a mark on the research team at Equillium.

Jose only had the best to say about his Project Onramp experience. “I’m very grateful for that opportunity. And if it weren’t for Project Onramp, I would not be here.”

The Project Onramp experience allowed him to discover how much he loves working in a lab while also giving him real-world context to what he was learning in school, ultimately empowering him as a student. It also changed the trajectory of his career. He shifted his major to neurobiology, and instead of going to medical school, he’s now considering working in a research lab upon graduation. Following the advice of his mentor, Jose plans to reapply for additional Project Onramp internships so he can try out different types of labs.

To future Project Onramp interns, Jose said: “I highly encourage anyone who’s even thinking about applying to apply. Disregard the fact that you don’t have the experience. That’s what Project Onramp is for–it exists so that you can discover if a job is right for you.”

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