Luke Cohen-Abeles ’23 is working as a neurodegenerative disease intern this summer at Biogen, a biotechnology company that studies neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s, and develops treatment methods.
On a typical workday, Cohen-Abeles analyzes tissue cultures in the lab, measuring the ability of certain compounds to clear up aggregates of alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain. Such aggregates contribute to the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms, which can be mitigated if the proteins are dispersed. This, in turn, can “target the base of the disease entirely,” he said.
In the lab, Cohen-Abeles is part of a team that consists of other professional researchers whom he helps design and carry out experiments. He is supervised in his work by Catherine Nezich, a Scientist II at Biogen.
Hometown: Wellesley, Mass.
High School: Wellesley High School
The team conducts exploratory research, an approach that attempts to identify or define a given problem. This means it is also “pre-portfolio,” Cohen-Abeles said, “so it’s basically get as much done as you can, and if there’s something interesting you can pitch it to someone higher-up to consider for further screening.” For this reason, his internship has no definitive goal or culmination beyond doing as much as possible in the allotted time.
Cohen-Abeles described the process of finding and applying for this internship as a mix of networking and LinkedIn. First, he began reaching out to people whose job characteristics interested him. This way he could get a feel for the industry before looking into specific positions or companies — in this case, talking to people who worked at Biogen or had worked at Biogen.
Previously, Cohen-Abeles has conducted similar research at Brandeis University, and he said that experience in a laboratory setting proved helpful at Biogen. After graduation, he hopes to enter a Ph.D. program at some point, though he acknowledged it might not happen right away. “It might be the case that some industry work comes in before that,” he said.
On the lab culture, Cohen-Abeles had only positive things to say. “It’s been fantastic,” he remarked. “Everyone’s really collaborative at Biogen … different lab groups are always talking to each other if they are working on common projects. The people are fantastic and really friendly.”