The Charger Blog

Biology Major Reflects on Journey of Discovery in the Lab

Whether her research is focused on rare diseases or cancer, Esma Fera ’24, a native of Kosovo, is committed to improving the lives of patients. She’s grateful for the impactful and hands-on opportunities she had in the lab as a research intern for AstraZeneca/Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

September 19, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Esma Fera ’24
Esma Fera ’24 draws inspiration from patients as she conducts her research.

For Esma Fera ’24, interning at a leading pharmaceutical company was more than a remarkable learning opportunity. She describes it as a “journey” – one that led her to take part in important research that was deeply meaningful for her.

As a research intern for AstraZeneca/Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Fera was based in the company’s location in downtown New Haven, where she gained hands-on experience in the laboratory. Her research journey enabled her to explore sandwich-immunoassay techniques, which involve a unique approach to detecting specific molecules in complex mixtures. She also developed the particular assays, designing protocols for her experiments. She describes the work in the lab as similar to solving a puzzle.

"Above all, what truly infused meaning into my journey was listening to patients' stories."Esma Fera ’24

“My internship proved to be an exceptional opportunity for me,” said Fera, a biology major. “Through this immersive experience, I had the chance to sharpen my critical thinking while solving real science problems. Moreover, I had the chance to collaborate closely with the esteemed diagnostics team.”

‘The internship holds a special place in my heart’

Fera’s goal was to screen antibodies that can serve as potential biomarkers for diagnosing patients with atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS), a rare genetic disease in which tiny clots form in a patient’s blood vessels, blocking blood flow to vital organs. Fera was moved by the importance of the work, and she hopes it makes a meaningful impact in the lives of individuals who suffer from aHUS – individuals who have already made a meaningful impact on her.

Esma Fera ’24 conducts research as part of her internship.
Esma Fera ’24 conducts research as part of her internship.

“Every morning, a deep sense of purpose embraced me,” said Fera. “It was as though each day held a unique promise to make a difference through science, revealing its undeniable impact. Above all, what truly infused meaning into my journey was listening to patients' stories. They not only inspired me, but they also bestowed a profound significance upon my work, underlining these individuals as the genuine heroes behind every scientist’s efforts.”

Fera, who hails from Kosovo, appreciated the opportunities this internship offered. She says her experiences as a Charger ensured she was well prepared for her role, thanks to her professors and her coursework that encompassed both the necessary scientific knowledge and the hands-on laboratory skills. She’s also grateful for the support of the University’s Career Development Center, which enabled her to develop important skills such as resume building and interview techniques.

“The internship holds a special place in my heart, given that, as an international student from Kosovo, such opportunities are a rarity,” said Fera. “The realization that these chances are scarce for students back home has made this experience even more significant. This awareness has magnified the worth of my internship.”

‘The culmination of a lifelong aspiration’

The opportunities Fera had to explore the critical role scientists have in conducting impactful research that can transform lives reaffirmed this is the work she wants to continue to do. She hopes to continue her research, and, perhaps, pursue her doctorate.

But first, Fera will be continuing to gain experience in the lab throughout this academic year. She’ll be focusing on ovarian cancer, a continuation of work she took part in last year. She’ll be conducting research at the Yale School of Medicine, focusing on studying ovarian cancer biomarkers. She hopes to help improve early-state cancer diagnoses, and she’ll be drawing on the skills she developed during her internship.

“It's a continuation of my passion for making a meaningful impact on the field of research and healthcare in the world,” said Fera. “As a research intern at AstraZeneca/Alexion Pharmaceuticals, I found that the collaboration with one of the globe's most prestigious pharmaceutical companies felt like the culmination of a lifelong aspiration. To be part of such an esteemed team was like seeing a cherished dream come true. The exposure to the forefront of research and innovation surpassed every expectation I had imagined.”