(Left to right: Nishitha Paidimukkala, intern, and Matt Peris, vice president of manufacturing at StemoniX)
In an effort to revolutionize stem cell-based research, StemoniX is hard at work providing stem cell solutions for drug development and discovery. Between its two offices, the R&D site in San Diego and the manufacturing facility in Maple Grove, two people on staff specialize in bioinformatics, which is crucial for organizing and processing the company’s biodata. One of those people is SciTech intern Nishitha Paidimukkala.
“As a startup, money is tight and finding talent is essential,” said Matt Peris, vice president of manufacturing at StemoniX. “When we found Nishitha, she was already so advanced. Bringing her on was really helpful.”
Peris and Paidimukkala connected through the SciTech Internship Program, a free, state-funded program that not only helps small companies hire top STEM talent, but makes the affordability of hiring interns easier as well. When companies like StemoniX hire through SciTech, they receive an end-of-internship reimbursement, up to $2,500 per student, to help cover their intern’s wages.
The Right Student for the Job
When Paidimukkala interviewed with StemoniX, she was pursuing her doctorate in bioinformatics and computational biology at the University of Minnesota and writing her thesis on gene stem cell research.
Bioinformatics, according to the U of M’s website, “explores the use of computational methods to better categorize, visualize, and model biological data and systems.” Or, in Paidimukkala’s own words, “it’s a way to make biology more visually quantitative.”
“Nishitha was hired for her strength in statistics,” Peris said. “Combined with her background in bioinformatics, it was a great fit.”
As part of the StemoniX team, Paidimukkala oversaw and inferred all the biodata collected at StemoniX’s Minnesota location. That might sound like a big task for one intern, but for Paidimukkala, she said, “The joy of a bioinformatician is looking at the data.”
To help advance their product development, it was her job to then turn said data into an information package, which served as a reference so that StemoniX’s clients can determine how the stem cell model compares to humans as a replacement for animal models.
More than Just an Internship
Working in her industry, Paidimukkala said, “Has been like a journey of self-discovery. I feel I can contribute more in an industry setting than in an academic one. It challenges me more and helps me to stay focused […] There’s a lot that can be done, especially with an exciting product like this. So far [in my internship] I’ve not been frustrated. It’s just been very exciting for me.”
Small Minnesota companies receive up to $2,500 to help pay a STEM intern. At least 350 wage matches are available through August 2019.