On the first day of my introductory biology course at Bowdoin, Professor Horch introduced the burgeoning research field of the gut microbiome. The microbial community that resides in our gastrointestinal tract has been shown to contribute significantly to our health and wellbeing. Since then, the gut microbes that outnumber the human cells in our body have fascinated me. This summer, I am pursuing an internship at Sun Genomics, a rapidly growing start-up with an unparalleled vision: eradicating diseases using the microbiome. How it works: you send Sun Genomics a fecal sample, they sequence your microbiome, and create personalized probiotics to help you cultivate a healthier microbiome. Right now, the technology is in the hands of those who can afford it, but over time, once the techniques have been streamlined, it will have major public health implications. In the summer of 2016, I worked at the Iowa Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center, an experience which opened my eyes to the visceral significance of food deserts in rural communities and the processes involved in clinical medical trials related to diabetes. The experience also gave me a deep appreciation for the promising future of the gut microbiome in public health and its role in regulating diabetes and obesity.
The opportunity to work for Sun Genomics is an unprecedented jump-start to my career in public health. Upon speaking with a business executive and a head researcher, we have arranged that I will be splitting my time between the sequencing lab, the computational bioinformatics team, and the business side of the company. During my time in the lab, I will be on a project comparing sequencing technologies to cultivate the best tools for the company. During the bioinformatics portion, I will be working with large data sets using the skills I have gained from my computational course this semester to develop a primer list to more efficiently iterate through individual’s sequenced microbiomes. Finally, on the business side, I will be researching networking pipelines, garnering contacts for the company, meeting with other businesses to support Sun Genomics, and spreading the message. This is a unique internship opportunity that is highly personalized, but unfortunately unpaid. The tools and knowledge I will gain through this experience are ones that will allow me to put into practice and build upon what I am learning at Bowdoin, in the midst of a cutting-edge company like Sun Genomics.