Meet Daniela, Intern in the RiSE Programme at Roche

Hi, my name is…

…Daniela, I was born and raised in Milan, Italy. Soon after gaining my Master's Degree in Biology, I started to work in the research field, focusing my interest on the understanding of the genetic causes of common and rare diseases. To develop my career in this direction, I also decided to take part in a PhD programme in Medical Genetics at the University of Milan. Later, my academic mentor suggested that I should apply for an internship on the RiSE (Roche Internship for Scientific Exchange) programme. Since I viewed it as a great opportunity to grow as a scientist, I was very keen to apply, and that is how I joined Roche.

My typical day at work is…

I work as a PhD student in the department of Research and Early Development, in the Neuroscience section. The RiSE programme, of which I am a part, is specifically designed to allow PhD students to work for several months on well-defined projects employing cutting-edge technologies, while also gaining an insight into the research environment of a pharmaceutical company. My typical working day includes lot of wide-ranging activities, since I’m involved in every aspect of the daily routine of laboratory life: from the planning of the experiments to their practical execution at the bench and the analysis of their results. Although some days can be very busy, I always try not to miss the chance to also attend the numerous symposia and lectures organised internally by Roche. These are very useful since they keep me updated and provide interesting hints for my work. They also provide the opportunity to share your ideas and have useful discussions with many different experienced scientists.

The location I am working at is…

…Basel, right in the north-western corner of Switzerland. To join the RiSE programme I had to move from my hometown to Basel, and Roche took care of every aspect of my relocation. Currently I’m working here at the Roche headquarters with over 11,000 employees. The site is one of Roche’s largest, with different departments located in close proximity and with a variety of useful services for the employees. Its position, close to the city centre and next to the Rhine, also means that it's very easy to have nice lunch breaks and enjoy the view during a short walk along the river.

My work helps Roche to …

My work is focused on unravelling genetic alterations that underlie neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases. These findings help Roche in many ways during drug development. In fact, knowing the genetic cause of a disease could lead to identification of new targets, and could also help us understand the best way to intervene. Moreover, discovering genetic variants that are not the direct cause of a disease, but that are more frequent in patients, also help us better predict the risk of a disease or the response to treatment in specific individuals, thereby enabling us to find more effective solutions for patients.

Roche as an employer is…

Roche offers many development opportunities, and you really have the feeling that your career progression is in your own hands. Here you have easy access to various courses that can help in building the strong professional profile you're aiming for. Roche also encourages employees to network and collaborate. This means that you often find yourself working with very passionate and engaged scientists who are willing to share their knowledge, and this can help you grow faster as a researcher. The working environment is very international: there are people from all over the world, with different work and cultural backgrounds, making it a very exciting and enriching experience to work here. Last but not least, since the company offers a very flexible working environment, it is easy to maintain a good work-life balance.

What distinguishes the science at Roche from your experience at university?

The internship at Roche gave me the opportunity to see how science and research are conducted in a company, and now I know that it can be very similar to the academic life, with a lot of opportunities to explore and pursue new ideas. Here I found a very lively environment with numerous lectures and meetings providing good opportunities for scientific exchange with other scientists, whether from Roche or from universities. I think that this is very valuable for a student at the beginning of her career, because it is often not possible in the academic world to have the opportunity to talk and discuss directly with experienced researchers from very different fields. Another big advantage of doing science at Roche is the ready access here to the latest technologies, enabling you to experiment more, which means that you can leave no stone unturned. The last difference in doing science at Roche compared to a university is that here you never forget what the real meaning of our job is: finding a way to improve patients’ lives.

How did the RiSE programme help you to develop?

The RiSE programme has helped me grow a lot as a scientist, albeit in a relatively short time. This has been a very valuable experience that has succeeded in making me a better researcher, with more theoretical and technical knowledge, which will be very important for my future. Moreover, since I was given considerable autonomy in organising my research, I now feel more empowered and ready to face all the complexities that can arise when managing a research project.

What would you suggest to people who are interested in the RiSE programme?

I would definitely recommend applying for a RiSE internship. You can find the open positions here. Don’t be afraid to try leaving academia to do research, because you might be pleasantly surprised!

Tags: Career Blog, Switzerland, Basel, Early In Career, Research & Development