Creating Hands-On Opportunities for Young Scientists Through Rotation Programs

Genentech's Rotational Program opens paths for recent college graduates to explore developmental sciences.

Maddy Ramos found Genentech at just the right time. “I definitely didn’t start out knowing I was going into science,” she says. “Neither of my parents went to college, and there were no scientists in my family.” Upon graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, she landed a job for a medical device company, but left after a year. Ramos wanted a career more geared toward science and research, but without any experience in pharmaceuticals or drug development, she wasn’t quite sure where to start.

Fortunately, Genentech was readying the launch of its Developmental Sciences Rotation Program (DSRP). The two-year program offers a highly selective group of recent college graduates full-time employment at Genentech through four six-month rotations in different functions of developmental sciences. Through rotations in areas such as biomarker development and flow cytometry, Ramos gained hands-on lab experience and close connections with Genentech scientists — many of whom she was impressed to find were female leaders. One was Danielle Mandikian, a senior scientist in the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics group, who created a rotation project that Ramos joined. “Danielle was the most passionate person I had met in my life,” Ramos says. “She kept pushing me past where I thought I could be while always treating me as someone with a seat at the table.”

“Scientists like Ramos must be at the table for Genentech — and the biopharmaceutical industry — to best meet the needs of a diverse patient population,” says Paul Fielder, vice president emeritus in Developmental Sciences, who co-founded DSRP with Patricia Siguenza, vice president, BioAnalytical Sciences. “Without diverse teams and clinical studies, we could be missing out on key insights or opportunities for finding new biology,” he says.

Ramos couldn’t agree more. Now working full-time as a senior scientific researcher in Mandikian’s group, she is also pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the University of California, Berkeley. She hopes to use her expertise and lived experience to work in the area of diversifying clinical research. “Being a person of color, a female and a first-gen, going down this path was winding and scary at times,” Ramos says. “But now I feel I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”