Rachel Levantovsky

This summer [2015] I was able to apply what I have learned as a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major during my time as an intern for scientist Ailan Guo, PhD at Cell Signaling Technology (CST). CST is based out of Danvers, MA, and specializes in commercial antibody production, applied systems biology, and cancer research. As CST is a privately owned company, this internship allowed me to experience research in a setting that I never have before, and it was incredible to participate in a lab that mastered the combination of results driven work and scientific integrity and curiosity.  Additionally, the fact that the company is local to me provided the incredible opportunity to do real, meaningful science very close to home.

The group that I was a part of, Target Discovery, is responsible for discovering new and promising cancer therapy target proteins and determining which projects to develop antibodies for based on therapeutic potential. In the future, the company hopes to be a large contributing player to the exciting up and coming field of targeted immunotherapy for various cancers.

During my time at CST I was welcomed to be a part of each aspect of the research process. A majority of my regular duties consisted of a great amount of tissue culture for many mammalian and cancer cell lines. There is a huge array of skills and techniques that comes with caring for live cells, which familiarized me with cell morphologies and common cell types and practices I can expect to see in future research. The sheer amount of tissue culture work that I’ve have done this summer has made me very comfortable with the possibility of being introduced to new cell lines and being able to ascertain the correct ways to maintain them. I also performed many Western blot experiments to screen for desired (…or undesired) protein expression, as well as to characterize new antibodies derived from animal immunization to determine the most strong and accurate to our targets. Finally, I learned the technique of Flow Cytometry, an extremely useful experiment that is significant in that it tests live cells. Flow determines not only protein expression, as in a Western blot, but differentiates whether or not the protein of interest is on the cell surface, which is crucial in order for antibody based therapeutics to be effective.

Aside from the bench work, I was also invited to attend an important meeting regarding the future directions of the group, and was exposed to the selection process and how critical decisions in research labs are made. I witnessed the scientists’ presentations, the types of questions they were subsequently asked, and how the cases for very promising targets are argued against each other. It was an absolute privilege to be audience to this as an intern, and I have learned from the experience to better myself as a future scientist who will have her own promising projects to present, some day.

The skills I have learned and the ideas I have been introduced to will continue to benefit me throughout my research career and inspire my own new ideas of how to tackle the questions that interest me. My time at CST has taught me how to ask the right questions, choose the right approach to answering them, and how to interpret the results and move forward, all in the context of a competitive scientific environment and surrounded by some of the best people that are currently working in the industry. In future research closer to my field of interest, the use of antibodies and concepts that drive the push for targeted therapy will play a huge role and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I had to learn and practice these ideas first hand.