My internship at Broad Institute – Summer ‘19

About me

My name is Lindokuhle Nkambule. I was born in Alexandra, but spent my formative years in eMadadeni, a township in the North West of KZN. In 2012 I moved to Diepsloot, Joburg (because of soccer) and that is where I finished high school. I have a BSc. Degree from Wits, majored in Applied Bioinformatics and Microbiology & Biotechnology (2017), and am currently doing Honours in Bioinformatics at UCT. I love sneakers, ice cream, and sunflowers, and my motto to live by is “believe in yourself”. This piece is about how I got an internship at the Broad institute of MIT and Harvard, how it was, and what I got up to while in the United States of America.

Applying and getting the offer

The idea of going to the Broad came about while I was an intern at the CPGR in 2018. I was using some of the company’s tools to analyze data and thought it’d be great to know how the actual tools worked, and the best way to learn this was to go to the Broad and learn from the developers of the tools. In January this year I finally decided to send an email asking about opportunities for international students. Below are screenshots of some of the emails.

You might find it hard to believe this, but all I literally had to do was send that first email in the screenshot above. What followed was an offer as a Bioinformatics Intern from July till August at one of the biggest Genomic companies in the world!

PS: One of the things they (Broad) liked was that I reached out and it contributed to me getting an offer. So, believe in yourself and shoot your shot.

The following is about what I did as part of the internship, places I visited, and the highlights of my trip.

I arrived in the US on the 11th of July. On my first weekend I went to Carson Beach in Boston and it was a worthwhile thing to do considering the long trip I had. It was also great being away from the windy and rainy Cape Town. My induction was on the 15th July. I met a few interesting individuals at the induction, and apparently the inductions happen often because of how big the company is (it’s reeeeaally big). On the 16th of July I joined the Data Sciences Platform (DSP, great group of people). I spent the rest of my first week meeting with members from the DSP to help with planning my project.

On the second week of my internship I started working on my project. My job was to develop some quality control tool, evaluating the quality of the alignment and variant calling data the company was generating, to be used on the company’s cloud platform. I went to The Harvard Arts Museum in Cambridge (walking distance from where I lived) on my second weekend.

The third and fourth weeks were quite intense. I had to produce something before the internship ended, but I delivered (as always J ). My colleagues and their friends took me to Kimball Farm in Westford on my third weekend. We did a lot of activities, from mini golf to grand slam batting cages (this was tiring, felt like I had been lifting weights after only two rounds). They also sell delicious ice cream.

Highlights

  1. The biggest highlight of my trip was meeting Li Heng, a Bioinformatics Professor at Harvard. He’s like the Beyonce of modern Bioinformatics and has developed a lot of tools. Our meeting went smoothly, although I thought I was going to run out of things to ask or talk about. He’s a very smart individual and meeting him topped off my trip.
  2. Working alongside great Bioinformaticians/ Computational Biologist like Laura Gauthier and Yossi Farjoun who have made several important contributions in the field of Bioinformatics/ Computational Biology. Both Laura and Yossi helped me plan my project.