Spotlight on . . . Alix Chan, 2019 Vertex Fellow
What inspired your application to the Vertex Fellows program?
Throughout grad school, I thought that my eventual goal was to work in drug discovery. By the time I was planning on graduating and looking at next steps, I wasn't totally satisfied with the idea of more "standard" options, such as an academic post-doc or going directly into a permanent industry position, for a variety of reasons. The Vertex Fellows program offered what I thought was a perfect middle ground, where I could receive exposure to real drug discovery efforts while also having the scientific freedom and pedagogy of a training program. It also helped that I knew a few former Fellows who spoke very highly of the program.
What was the experience like?
Overall, I had a great time. The Fellows Program balances structured learning opportunities with the flexibility to tailor the program to your interests, and I was able to take advantage of that in a number of ways. Day-to-day, I was given a lot of freedom to explore research questions of mutual interest to both Vertex and me. I also benefited professionally, through formal or informal mentorship by senior leadership, formal learning opportunities provided by the Fellows program (such as the Bootcamp), or generally interacting with smart and motivated colleagues every single day as we worked together on some really tough drug discovery problems.
What was your area of focus?
I worked in the Chemical Biology group in Boston. One major focus was to develop in-house assays for targeted protein degradation (TPD), a new promising therapeutic strategy, to see if TPD could (or should!) be applied to protein targets for diseases that Vertex is pursuing.
What did you hope to accomplish from the program?
My main aim when entering the Fellows program was to assess if my near-term career goal — to work as a bench scientist in industry — was actually right for me. I felt that the short term of the program combined with the hands-on experience and exposure to a wide swath of the drug discovery process made it ideal for that.
How does the Vertex Fellows program differ from other similar programs you have completed – post-docs, fellowships or business school internships?
I can't say I've actually done anything that is comparable, having come straight from my Ph.D. program. Compared to that, I would say the Fellows program provided me a much broader exposure to real-world-relevant scientific research and generally was a lot more fun.
What’s next for you?
I'm starting a full-time position as a researcher at Genentech soon. I'm sad to be leaving Vertex but very excited for this new opportunity!