On Saturday, October 19, 2019, the Governor’s STEM Scholars, an innovative program developed by the Research & Development Council of New Jersey to bolster the education and career pipeline in the State, were invited to visit Celgene Corporation’s facilities in Summit, New Jersey. New Jersey’s STEM talent in grades 10 through the doctoral level were introduced to the process of drug innovation at Celgene and what a future career at Celgene might look like.
The morning began with a soiree-style breakfast in the atrium, and the scholars were able to mix-and- mingle with each other as well as the Celgene speakers and other employees. After breakfast, Senior Director PS&T Compound Leadership Rowena Choudrie thanked sponsors and participants of the day’s event and introduced the opening speaker, Vice President of Non-Clinical Development Gondi Kumar, Ph.D. Gondi Kumar serves on the Board of Directors of the Research & Development Council of New Jersey.
Gondi Kumar said, “It is such a pleasure to interact one-on-one with the Governor’s STEM Scholars, the next generation of STEM thought leadership in the State. The program is vital to encourage the diverse work force development that will directly benefit corporations like Celgene here in New Jersey.”
Executive Director of Drug Product Development William Bowen, Ph.D. highlighted the need for increased diversity in STEM. He praised the Governor’s STEM Scholars program for the diversity he saw amongst the group of avid listeners that attended the event. The 2019-2020 class of Governor’s STEM Scholars represent 20 out of the 21 counties in New Jersey, more counties than in years past. In addition to being geographically diverse, the class is ethnically and racially diverse, and 60 percent female. This is a result of the program’s commitment to increasing diversity and its emphasis on helping women succeed in STEM fields.
A number of women speakers enlightened the group about their individual career paths at Celgene. Senior Principal Scientist Non-Clinical Development, Toxicology Katie Stamp, Ph.D. spoke to the scholars about how she emigrated to New Jersey from the United Kingdom, and did not know a career in toxicology was possible until she arrived. She emphasized the teamwork involved, and that a role exists for everyone in the process from development candidate through proof of concept (POC). Senior Director of Translational Development, Clinical Pharmacology Ying Ye, Ph.D. explained that clinical pharmacology is integral to the first four phases of drug development. Christina Riccio, a senior at Drew University, spoke enthusiastically about her experience at Celgene and how she feels that the persistence she developed in obtaining her internship will be key to her career. She encouraged the scholars to make the most of the networking opportunities provided. Associate Director, Global Product Quality CAR-T Carlos Romero, Ph.D. echoed that theme. One of the unique benefits of the Governor’s STEM Scholars program is the opportunity for the scholars to interact with thought leaders in government, academy, and industry.
After the speaking portion of the day, scholars were split into two groups; they heard the history of the Summit campus and toured the oral dosage form facility and the high throughput facility. The event continued long after it was scheduled to end, with the speakers and employees engaging in casual one-on- one discussions with the scholars. One scholar, Sofia Milone of Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, said that she was excited to hear one of the speakers talk about applying some of the information that she had learned in biology class.
Director of the Governor’s STEM Scholars, Research & Development Council of New Jersey Rebecca Lubot, Ph.D. pointed out that “the Governor’s STEM Scholars program is designed to help scholars understand the real-world applications of what they are learning in New Jersey schools through extracurricular and experiential learning, and to help them build the skills needed to succeed in the innovation economy.”
The program’s next event is the annual “STEM in Academia” Symposium, which will expose the scholars to STEM opportunities in academia. The Symposium will be held at Rowan University on Saturday, December 14, 2019.