The Rackham Doctoral Intern Fellowship Program allows doctoral candidates to pursue a fully supported internship as part of their graduate studies, providing mentored career experiences for Rackham students outside of academia. The program includes funding for internships with our partner organizations and funding for internships that Rackham students self-identify. Learn more: Rackham Doctoral Intern Fellowship Program.
Whether she’s in the lab or in her home office, Rackham student and pharmacology Ph.D. candidate Loyda Morales uses research to foster a healthier world, seeking deeper understandings of diseases for the development of better therapies.
“There is a huge need for studying not only diseases and how they occur, but also the effects of different drugs,” Morales says. “The outcomes of this kind of research will benefit not only patient populations, but society as a whole.”
During the summer of 2022, as part of the Rackham Doctoral Intern Fellowship Program, Morales enjoyed a paid internship at Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, working to support Takeda’s medical affairs team, tasked with targeting unmet needs in the diagnosis and treatment of gastroenterology related diseases and disorders.
This was a departure from her work in the Puthenveedu Lab at the University of Michigan, where Morales researches how cell membrane proteins respond to environmental signals in acidic micro environments, such as those present in cancer or inflammation-related diseases.
“I did not apply to basic science research industry internships, because I felt that my Ph.D. training had already provided me with some basic science research experience,” Morales says. “I wanted to explore an area of the pharmaceutical industry that I didn’t really know a lot about: medical affairs.”
Exploring New Terrain
Morales first heard of medical affairs—the department within a pharmaceutical company responsible for communicating accurate information to internal and external stakeholders—through a pharmacology department career day panel.
“I liked that medical affairs roles were all about performing literature searches and targeting experts in the field to gather and share evidence-based information that would support initiatives happening at the company,” Morales says. “I also wanted to be able to immerse myself into a particular scientific field and its literature.”
After a competitive application process, submitting her resume to 20 different companies, Morales landed her role at Takeda.
A 240-year-old global company working with different therapeutic areas including rare diseases, oncology, neuroscience, and vaccines, Takeda is headquartered in Tokyo, with facilities located across the globe, including 13 offices in the United States. But Morales conducted her 40-hour work week from the comfort of her own home.
“I was mainly remote throughout the summer. I did get a chance to visit the facilities in the Boston area, but my internship experience was work-from-home,” Morales says.
On the Job
A typical day in the home office for Morales consisted of team meetings with her medical affairs team and other departments, including regulatory affairs, safety and compliance, and clinical trial management. When not in meetings, Morales performed market analysis research and literature searches.
“While literature searches are part of my work at U-M, at Takeda, I also had a chance to critically evaluate clinical data and clinical studies, which was something that I hadn’t done before,” Morales says.
In order to support the professional development of all new employees, including interns, Takeda assigns each newcomer a tomodachi or “friend” within the company. The tomodachi is typically a seasoned professional who is able to help new employees feel at home, have everything they need to be successful, and have someone to turn to with questions.
“The mentorship of my tomodachi and the guidance from my supervisors made the whole experience a lot easier and more manageable,” Morales says.
“Whenever I was unsure about a certain presentation I was doing for the team, they would give me feedback on the content and help me practice beforehand. That way, I felt more comfortable presenting to big names or big titles in the company.”
In addition to working closely with the medical affairs team, Morales also had a chance to network with industry professionals and to work collaboratively with a broad range of individuals across the company.
“The whole experience strengthened my decision to pursue a career within the pharma industry, specifically within medical affairs,” Morales says.
When asked what advice she has for others considering the Rackham Doctoral Intern Fellowship Program, Morales offers: “Don’t be afraid of applying to industry internships and exploring other careers that are not talked about a lot in academia. Do your research, apply, and just go for it.”
How Rackham Helps
In addition to participating in the Rackham Doctoral Intern Fellowship Program, Morales was a Rackahm Merit Fellow and is the co-president of Science Education and Engagement for Kids (SEEK), an outreach organization funded in part by the Rackham Public Scholarship Grant that works with fifth-grade teachers in the Ypsilanti Community Schools to provide hands-on science lessons aligned with the Michigan K-12 Science Standards.
“I really like communicating science to the public, to kids specifically,” Morales says. “SEEK is a way to fulfill a need – and I like to give back where I can.”