Madeline Tanner interview

Senior Madeline Tanner (B.S. ’23, Biotechnology) prepares for a biotech career at the intersection of discovery and development

“There’s such a wide array of stuff being done here,” said Madeline Tanner (B.S. ’23), a senior studying Biotechnology within the College of Arts and Sciences, “whether you want to go into the health sciences, molecular biology, microbiology, or animal science.”

Madeline has been involved with the College since she came to IU – first as a student in the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) and later as a Biotechnology major and Walter Center for Career Achievement scholarship awardee. Her studies and persistence paid off this past June when she achieved an academic and career milestone – a summer internship with Eli Lilly and Company.

Preparing for success

The ASURE program and the Walter Center set Madeline up for success early in her college career. ASURE gives freshmen the opportunity to conduct hands-on research in either the sciences or the humanities. As part of the program, she took a career course through the Walter Center that would prepare her for interning, creating a resume, and interviewing with potential employers.

“I got some resume-building skills and general networking skills, which is really nice,” she noted, “and I think that overall helped me a lot throughout my application process for internships and other job opportunities.”

As an underclassman, Madeline learned about the internship program with Eli Lilly by attending a Walter Center career fair. Every year, even as a freshman and sophomore, she would update her resume and submit her best possible application to join the prestigious program.

While it’s rare for underclassmen to achieve a placement like this one, Madeline’s persistence paid off – last spring, she was invited to be a drug discovery intern at Eli Lilly.

To fund this opportunity, Madeline applied for and was awarded $3,000 from the Lawrence M. Blatt Life Sciences Internship Scholarship. She credits Senior Lecturer Nancy Magill in the Department of Biology with telling her about the scholarship and leading her to apply for it.

“I do encourage all of our students to go [to the Walter Center] early in their college years and start thinking about their future,” said Nancy Magill. “Starting early helps students to have all the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to find that first job and to develop the career path that is right for that individual.”

“With both the professional and financial help from the Walter Center,” Madeline said, “I think I’ve been able to do more with my time here at IU than I had previously.”

Interning at Eli Lilly

As an intern, Madeline saw many sides of the organization as she spent more time at Eli Lilly over the course of the summer. “I worked in an in-between organization there, between discovery and development,” she says, and her experiences in the lab there reaffirmed her love for the hands-on nature of biotech sciences and convinced her that this was the right industry to start her career in.

“I got to work with my hands a lot, which was something I really enjoyed,” she said. “I really love bench work.”

She worked on antibody discovery and development while there, and was excited about the opening of the company’s Institute for Genetic Medicine. This area interested her because her current research in the College focuses on the CRISPR-Cas system, an adaptive immune system that prevents infection by phages, viruses, and other genetic elements. Madeline conducts this research under Associate Professor Julia van Kessel in the Department of Biology, in the van Kessel Lab.

“Eli Lilly is part of the pharmaceutical industry,” Madeline said, “but seeing that they had antibody development and genetic medicine was really cool to me.”

Her experiences in the College of Arts and Sciences have given Madeline the tools she needs to carve out the best path forward for herself: “All the learning I’ve done here offers me a huge background for what I want to do in the future. The College is everything for me, basically. All the classes I’ve taken, even those that aren’t science related, have been in the College and I think it made me a really well-rounded person.”

Madeline plans to continue her education and hopes to obtain a Ph.D. before pursuing a career in the biotherapeutics or pharmaceutical industries.