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Vanessa Raab C’21 Chose Drew University for RISE Program

“Going into the biotech field has proven that Drew provides amazing lab experience.”

September 2021 – When considering where to go to college, Vanessa Raab C’21 was determined to find a school that offered strong research opportunities. She had to look no further than Drew University and its unique RISE program.

RISE is a one-of-a-kind research program that pairs undergraduate science students with retired star researchers and industrial scientists—like 2015 Nobel Prize Winner Dr. William Campbell—in the lab for one-on-one, hands-on research.

“In my work, I often do the things I learned and practiced at Drew, like Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR), DNA isolation, whole-cell breaks for protein analysis, bacterial culture growth, DNA sequence analysis, and reading primary literature to help improve laboratory techniques,” said Raab, now a research assistant in the Molecular Biology Department of Shenandoah Biotechnology.

“I also learned how to work in a group in RISE, and it has translated directly to the workplace. I always had the mentorship of Dr. John Perkins and Dr. Neal Connors to guide my work, but I also had the opportunity to teach the students who were entering the lab.”

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Raab and Connors

“Vanessa was very dedicated in the lab. She was there almost all the time when she wasn’t taking her other classes,” said Dr. Perkins, former senior project manager/principal scientist of DSM Food Specialties.

“She was able to learn numerous new techniques very quickly and had a tenacity to keep at an experiment even when things didn’t go well. With her extensive time in RISE and skill in the lab, she had a story to tell of her research project and was well prepared to look for an industrial lab position.”

“I liked the grit and determination Vanessa showed while sequencing a particularly challenging gene,” added Dr. Connors, former senior investigator of bioprocess R&D at Merck and current owner/president of Phoenix BioConsulting, LLC. “Beyond the technical aspects of our project, Vanessa understood the big picture.”

Raab added,”My mentors allowed me to have a lot of independence and a decision-making role in our projects. The independence and guidance in combination allowed me to learn a lot of lab skills and competency that translate to my current work.”

She also touted lab techniques taught in biology and chemistry courses at Drew—”especially those with Dr. Joanna Miller!”

“They have proven to be endlessly useful in my work, and my skills are very precise, especially for only having an undergraduate degree.”

“I am very thankful that I had all these experiences at Drew that helped me transition to working in biotechnology in just weeks.”

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