Meet Manuel, Intern in the RiCH Programme at Roche

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Hi, my name is…

...Manuel and I am studying chemistry as part of my Master of Science (MSc) programme at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (LMU), with an emphasis on organic and inorganic chemistry. I am currently doing an internship in the field of organic synthesis as part of the Roche Internship in Medicinal Chemistry (RiCH) Programme in Basel, Switzerland. I started the programme together with about twenty other students.  This is my second internship abroad. Last year, I studied and did an internship at Imperial College London as an Erasmus exchange student. During my time there, I applied to join the RiCH programme with the incentive of gaining an insight into research in industry. Besides working in the lab, I really enjoy spending time with interns from both my own and from other departments.

My typical day at work is…

...full of variety. The RiCH programme offers Master’s and Bachelor’s students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience outside of academia. In doing this, I have the incredible chance to apply and expand my knowledge of organic chemistry, while working alongside experienced and inspiring colleagues every day.

I am currently working on a project targeting a specific area of oncology. A typical day usually consists of designing and synthesising novel drugs. When creating a new drug, there are many factors to consider and explore, and so this gives me the opportunity to inject my own ideas into the project. This may involve finding new and more efficient ways to synthesise a specific molecule, investigating ways to optimise the properties of a drug, or evaluating the influence of molecular structure on biological activity.

The location I am working at is…

...located in Basel, Switzerland. Basel is the third-largest city in Switzerland and has a unique location bordering both France and Germany. This location, apart from being home to two of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, makes Basel a multicultural melting pot, with the city offering a wide range of cultural events all year round: the famous Christmas market, Fasnacht (the Basel carnival), Basel Museums Night, Art Basel, open-air concerts and film nights - to name just a few! The Roche headquarters is situated next to the river Rhine, which gives me a chance to swim home after a hot summer day.  By bike, it takes me only 5 minutes to cycle to work in the morning.

My work helps Roche to…

...understand the correlation between drug structure and the corresponding effect this has. Knowledge of the structure-activity relationship is essential in the process of developing active, selective and non-toxic molecules as potential candidate drugs.

Roche as an employer is…

...inspiring. Roche is a very multicultural company, hiring employees from all over the world. This diversity creates an indeed open-minded and lively working environment. The positive atmosphere then facilitates the rapid exchange of knowledge and ideas between people working in different projects and departments. The generosity and kindness of Roche employees in sharing their knowledge really reflects the nature of an open and collaborative work environment. Additionally, while supporting your career opportunities, Roche also helps you to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This comes in many forms; for me, from organised skiing trips and use of the gym on site, to exclusive museum nights and evenings in a jazz club.

Compared to my experience at university, science at Roche is…

In my opinion, the main difference between the science at Roche and at university is the shift in focus of the end target. While results in academia may be of incredible value to the scientific community, the impact of such research may only reach a limited number of people working in a specialised field. In contrast, projects at Roche are chosen and developed with the goal to create new solutions which will have a significant impact on the lives of patients worldwide. Hence, being at Roche really gives me the chance to apply my work in a way that could really make a difference.

Another difference between academia and industry is expressed by the huge amount of teamwork and collaboration that occurs between departments at Roche. One target molecule may require the cooperation of many teams working in different departments or even in different countries. On the other hand, at university, project areas are less likely to overlap and therefore knowledge is rarely exchanged between research teams. In this sense, I have been lucky to have been working alongside inspirational colleagues with a wide variety of backgrounds in such a dynamic team at Roche.

The RiCH Programme helps me to develop because…

…it has allowed me the opportunity to develop my skills in organic synthesis beyond belief. Working with enthusiastic and dedicated experts everyday has expanded my knowledge of practical chemistry while providing me with the freedom to experiment and apply some of my own ideas in the lab. As part of the internship programme, I have also had the chance to take part in seminars and various presentation sessions, which has given me the chance to expand my knowledge in the field of theoretical chemistry and also gain valuable experience in presenting data and results to a wider audience.

I would recommend people who are interested in the RiCH programme to…

…apply :). You can find open positions for the RiCH programme here. You have a lot to gain from this opportunity. This internship will give you such an incredible all-round experience, from developing your scientific skills to opening your mind to a vibrant fusion of cultures. Every day poses a new challenge and a chance to interact with people from all over the world. From my perspective, there really is no better way to gain an insight into working life in industry.

Tags: Career Blog, Switzerland, Basel, Interns, Research