The Class of 2021: Project Onramp’s 127 Future Leaders

Jun 03, 2021

Guest Blog by Lila Neel, Program Manager, Project Onramp, a program of Life Science Cares

As we turn the calendar to June and the world continues to open up, many life sciences professionals are planning for delayed, but deserved, time off and time away.

But for the 127 Project Onramp interns, this summer is an opportunity to explore new fields and gain critical work experience in and among the Commonwealth’s most exciting companies. (Meet the interns via our Twitter feed.)

Now in its third year, Project Onramp matches college students from low-income backgrounds with paid summer internships throughout the life sciences. The program— a partnership of Life Science Cares, MassBio, MassBioEd, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, and Mass Biomedical Initiatives— helps bridge the opportunity gap for talented and motivated students who might not otherwise have a connection, or “onramp,” into our industry. Since its inception, we have built 216 career experiences through Project Onramp.

The Class of 2021 hail from universities like UMass Amherst, Boston College, Worcester State, Suffolk University, Harvard, Clark University, UMass Lowell and Northeastern. They will be working at 65 different companies, doing bench research, computational biology, communications, accounting, business development, clinical operations, talent acquisition, and working in almost every other area you can imagine. 

Part of being a Project Onramp student is having the support of advisors, as well as Project Onramp staff, throughout the summer. In addition to their supervisor at work, Onramp students have many people to reach out to if any questions or concerns arise. This makes for a smooth experience for students and supervisors alike.

This summer, as expected, many of the students will work remotely. But as we go into the second year of remote work, supervisors and students are comfortable creating enough structure to make these remote internships challenging and rewarding. When companies figure out how to make the transition back to the office, our interns will be part of the unfolding “new normal.”  Interns working in labs are aware that they will be following the various – and very creative – lab protocols in place at the different companies.

We have planned a stellar lineup for our “Summer Sessions,” virtual professional development and networking opportunities for the entire cohort. Starting with last week’s Career Institute—an internship bootcamp of sorts run by our partners at Bottom Line—and running through the final Internship Showcase, the Summer Sessions will tackle how to find a mentor, giving and receiving feedback and careers in life sciences. This year, we will also pair small groups of students with industry mentors, who will share their own career journeys. Our goal is that when students leave their summer internships with the new skills they’ve learned on the job, they will also leave having added some meaningful connections to their professional network. 

In a year when the inequities that exist in our society and our community were thrown into stark relief, we are proud of the industry’s enthusiasm for a program that is trying to level the playing field for undergraduates from low-income backgrounds. We thank all of Project Onramp’s company advocates and champions for making a commitment to diversity and opportunity and supporting Project Onramp as we grow. We’ll be reaching out soon for Summer 2022 and we’re thinking big!

About the Author:

Lila Neel is the Program Manager of Project Onramp, a program of Life Science Cares. To learn more, visit

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