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: Santa Rosa, CA
College: University of California, Davis
Department: Analytical Development
Company: Sutro BioPharma

Laura Valencia

Laura Valentina, a senior at UC Davis, was introduced to the world of chemistry at just 13 years old. While watching her grandmother craft homemade remedies using kitchen ingredients, Laura first understood the power of chemical reactions.

“I was fascinated. What reactions are happening? How is she determining concentrations, and how does she know that these ingredients could cure someone?”

This curiosity followed Laura as she moved from Columbia to the United States, attended high school in the Bay Area, and then enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College. During her time at SRJC, Laura volunteered in a lab to gain hands-on experience. Upon transferring to UC Davis in 2022, she declared a biochemistry and molecular biology major.

“I fell in love with biochemistry. I was immediately intrigued by amino acids and proteins.”

When Laura was hired for a Project Onramp summer internship with Sutro Biopharmaceuticals, she was thrilled to have the opportunity to gain more experience in a lab setting. Sutro is a public biotechnology company focused on clinical-stage drug discovery, development, and manufacturing.

As part of the Analytical Development department, Laura worked with two mentors in the lab every day. She spent her internship preparing buffers, analyzing samples, programming high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) machines, and interpreting data with her mentors. She used her expertise from organic and physical chemistry classes to excel in her responsibilities.

She went to the Chemistry department during her free time to ask questions and learn more. She was immediately welcomed and invited to team meetings with the CEO.

“It was so cool to hear about the research and new drugs they were coming up with. The Sutro team went above and beyond my expectations. I felt so happy and valued there. And spoiled, too!”

Laura never thought she’d end up working in biotech, but now sees herself building a career in the industry. And her career goals extend beyond securing a particular job or title.

“No one looks like me in those settings. I was taking up space but didn’t have a position of power there. So maybe I can be in a position to influence more people and get more Latinas and Afro-Latinas in the biotech world.”

Laura shared four of her biggest takeaways from the Sutro experience:

1. Be kind to yourself. You won’t know everything when you’re in a new setting, but remember that you’re still learning.

2. Do not tell yourself no! When she was selected to work with Sutro, Laura had no background in analytical chemistry and had to remind herself: “Let them tell you no. When you’re given an opportunity – take it!”

3. Try to have fun and learn as much as you can. Be vocal about what you need and what you want to know.

4. Most importantly: “We need more bi-lingual people in biotech. As a minority and as a Latina, we’re underrepresented and underrated, so we need more people that take up space in those industries that are male-dominated.”

Now, she’s keeping in touch with her mentors and peers from Sutro, reflecting on her experience and thinking about her bright future.

“I’m the American dream of my parents and my abuelita.”

Laura Valentina is just getting started.

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Home Town: San Mateo, CA
College: Yale University
Department: Cell Engineering
Company: Arcus Biosciences

Brianna Rangel Arroyo

“There wasn’t a specific point where I decided not to attend medical school. It was a natural transition because I had started working with Project Onramp, which exposed me to working in the lab at Bay Area biotech companies,” Yale University senior Brianna Rangel Arroyo explained.

Science has always been Brianna’s forte, and she remembers gravitating toward biology classes in high school. Today, this first-generation Latina is about to finish her undergraduate degree with a major in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. Like many biology majors, Brianna figured she’d end up in medical school. That is until she discovered the world of biotech through Project Onramp.

“My viewpoint has shifted, and I see myself starting my career in biotech.”

Brianna has completed multiple internships with Project Onramp, including a medical device company and Genentech. Most recently, she was a cell engineer at Arcus Biosciences, a clinical-stage, global biopharmaceutical company developing cancer therapies. She discovered the internship through her long-time mentor at Peninsula Bridge, a local college access program that partners with Project Onramp.

“Cell engineering is something I’ve always wanted to try, so I applied. Since my first interview with Arcus, I felt they wanted to make sure that I was exposed to as many experiences in the lab as possible. And I felt that they really wanted to mentor me through building my resume and toolbox of skills,” Brianna said.

She spent the summer culturing and growing cell lines, and once she had enough of a cell population, she would edit the cell genomes using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. The lab work was an incredible experience, especially because, according to Brianna, “it’s difficult to find opportunities like that.”

Brianna also enjoyed getting to know fellow interns. Unlike in previous internships, where she was one of two interns in her building, Brianna regularly interacted with six to eight other interns.

“When our lab activities had been completed, we would come together to discuss what we had been doing throughout the day. If one of us was having trouble, we would troubleshoot. It was a think tank for us, where we would bounce thoughts off of each other.”

Those gatherings were probably some of Brianna’s favorite memories of the summer. Another crucial moment was when she presented her work at the end of the summer. One of the executives praised her for “very effectively communicating and synthesizing the work in a way that was understandable to those not familiar with CRISPR.”

“It was kind of a realization for me that over the years, I’ve just developed this ability to be able to fully understand my own work and also be able to pass that information on to other groups of people, whether it be other scientists or other individuals, who don’t have that same training.”

Brianna credits this ability to her upbringing: “At home, I speak to my family in Spanish, so I have to regularly talk to a group of people who don’t have formal training in science and also who don’t speak in the same language that I am working in.”

As Brianna looks to her next steps, she does see graduate school in her future, but for now, she is “scoping the field” for general biology positions. She is happy to know that, whatever she does, she can leverage her Arcus network for support.

“I still get messages from some of the employees and executives at Arcus who offered to help me with my job search process. So, I’ll definitely be using those connections, especially this upcoming semester, as I start to reach my graduation date.”

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