For many students in the sciences, the opportunity to contribute to critical, real-world research doesn’t come along until after graduation. However, chemistry major Mitchell Giordano recently had the opportunity to make a lasting contribution to medical research when he completed an internship with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) last summer.
Giordano first became interested in the internship after enrolling in Chemistry 497: MedChem Laboratory, which offers students a unique opportunity to take an inside look at the chemistry behind the pharmaceutical industry. The course is co-taught by Associate Teaching Professor Dr. Kate Masters and Jeff Ralph, a medicinal chemist at GSK. Ralph invited Giordano to apply for the internship, and he knew instantly that it was the perfect opportunity for him.
“I wanted to intern at GSK was because I have a love for medicinal chemistry,” Giordano notes, “I’m interested in synthesizing compounds that are used to treat and cure diseases and will eventually be put into medicines that can be given to patients.”
While completing the internship, Giordano had the opportunity to work on a real research project with GSK scientists, contributing to the development of new pharmaceutical products. “My favorite part of the experience was getting the chance to synthesize compounds that could be potential drug candidates and then being able to see the results of how they acted when they were tested in bioassays,” he explains, “It was so interesting to be able to take what you synthesized and see actual activity in a real cell and how the modifications you made to the compound impacted the effectiveness of the compound in treating/curing the disease of interest.”
Although his work with the pharmaceutical compounds was Giordano’s favorite part of the internship, his time as GSK also gave him the opportunity to develop valuable professional and scientific skills, including new lab techniques, new organic transformations, learning how to use GSK’s state-of-the-art equipment, and a bit of biochemistry.
While Giordano’s internship was an invaluable professional development experience, he adds that what made it truly special was the atmosphere at GSK. “While they knew I was just an intern, I was still treated as an equal, while being guided by my manager,” he says, “I synthesized novel compounds for bioassays just like the rest of the members on the team.”
After graduating from Penn State, Giordano plans to pursue his passion for medicinal chemistry by obtaining a PhD in organic chemistry and eventually beginning a career as a medicinal chemist for a pharmaceutical company.