Sam Brancazio is a biological science major about to graduate from Macalister College. Originally from the Philadelphia area, he spent part of his final spring semester working as a molecular biology intern for Sasya LLC., a St. Paul-based sustainable solutions provider of environmentally responsible chemicals.
Prior to this internship, Brancazio gained valuable lab experience by volunteering at a molecular neurology lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and by working at a developmental genetics Lab at Macalester.
After he enrolled in the SciTech Internship program, Brancazio received several internship offers from SciTech Companies. He chose Sasya, he said, due to the level of engagement that it promised.
Sasya specializes in the production of renewable chemicals, specifically, developing new processes to produce chemicals that are plant-biased and petroleum-free.
Working closely with Goutham Vermuri, the Chief Technologist at Sasya, Brancazio combined his past lab experience and theoretical understanding from school to work on his primary project, transforming certain DNA sequences into bacteria to alter their metabolic activity.
From High Risk to Low Risk
Even as a small business, Sasya has offered paid internships for the last three years and Vermuri even incorporated the prospect of hiring more interns into his funding proposals when competing for SBIR grants.
“We are a startup company,” Vermuri said, “so by definition we have a lot of these crazy ideas. Anything we touch becomes a very high risk project.”
Once interns like Brancazio have successfully completed their given assignments, Vermuri can then confidently send the results on to one of Sasya’s contractors to develop the process further. By hiring talented students to enact the early R&D lab work in an ‘ok to fail’ environment, Sasya is able to turn its high risk projects into low risk ones.
An Industry-Only Learning Experience
As beneficial as receiving additional lab help is, Vermuri is equally passionate about the opportunity he has to impart education and experience to the students he hires.
“It’s a win-win,” he said. “The intern gets the opportunity, maybe even for the first time in his or her life, to get their hands dirty and work.”
“I can guarantee that the work you’re doing right now,” Vermuri said to Brancazio, “no university has the capability to do. It’s pulling together resources from different universities and companies. So it’s a very highly collaborated project.”
With his Sasya internship drawing to a close, and graduation right around the corner, Brancazio is soon to embark on the next chapter of his life and the first of his career. Thanks to his time working as an intern in the industry, he said, “I’ve slowly been learning that there are other opportunities.” Whether that’s pursuing grad school or a full-time position, he now has the experience of both to help him decide.
Small Minnesota companies receive up to $2,500 to help pay a STEM intern. At least 350 wage matches are available through August 2019.