More Than an Athlete: From Student Athlete to Biotech Startup
I am a recent graduate from the University of Vermont majoring in Biomedical Engineering with minors in Math and Computer Science. I am also a varsity division I soccer player who won the America East Conference Championship and was named to the All-Conference First Team and All-Championship team.
Figure 1. Alex West playing center defender in her America East Conference championship game.
I have always had a passion for athletics and the human body. The CEO of FitBiomics, Jonathan Scheiman, presented his preliminary research to me when he was working out of Harvard in 2015. Once I got to college and started thinking about my future, the ideas that Jonathan talked about back in 2015 started to pique my interest. So, I did some research about his company and reached out to get involved. Best decision I ever made! FitBiomics is a place where I can combine both my passions.
During the summer of my rising senior year, I worked as an intern at FitBiomics. My primary responsibility was data analysis. They had recently done a beta test with Nella. The beta test consisted of having 250 participants try Nella and give extensive feedback. We analyzed that feedback and found that 45.1% of participants experienced improved sleep quality, 38.5% experienced shorter recovery time, 38.5% experienced shoer recovery time, and 34.6% experienced better and more regular bowel movements. We wanted to see what metabolites these strains were producing.
The metabolomics data was much more difficult to grasp because of my unfamiliarity with the topic. We first conducted a literature review about metabolites that could be considered beneficial or detrimental to the human body and with that became a lot more familiar with the metabolites produced by the gut microbiome. From there, I was able to tie together the in-depth literature review with the metabolomics data analysis to learn more about the types of metabolites FitBiomics’ strains were producing. The result of the analysis will be described in more detail in a future blog post. I learned how to understand the relationship of strains based on their metabolite profile and the unique qualities of FitBiomics’ products.
I am excited about FitBiomics’ mission because I want to help people in any way that I can, and I am overjoyed to get the chance to specifically help people’s health and quality of life. As a native New Yorker, I am extremely excited to help a biotech company like FitBiomics flourish in New York City and work with athletes in various sports. I enjoyed the multiple projects I worked on because each taught me something new while also allowing me to improve upon the skills I previously had. I also was able to work with different members of the company and get different perspectives on my work. I even recently earned the opportunity to try out a new role as the project manager. This additional responsibility is very exciting and educational for me to take a deeper dive into the company and understand all the moving pieces that are necessary to have a successful company.
Other students who want to work in biotech should know that biotech companies work on hard questions, and the answers to these questions are unknown. Therefore, it is very rewarding when you can make solid contributions. For instance, when working on that metabolomics data, I started out very lost but once I spent time with the topic and data, it was very rewarding to end the project having made a meaningful contribution that the company was excited about. Also, more specifically for a startup company like FitBiomics, every colleague wants you to succeed and will go out of their way to help you in any way that they can.
I have loved working for FitBiomics since day one and continue to love it every day. Taking on more responsibility within the company has been a great experience so far and I have loved learning about the intricate and complex workings of the startup life. It is very exciting to apply data analysis to real world problem solving that could create real world products to help people. I am honored that my colleagues trust me with as much responsibility as they have given me.
WRITTEN BY: Alex West
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
|Alex is a recent college undergraduate from the University of Vermont. She graduated with a degree in Biomedical Engineering specializing in Systems and Network Biology. She was a collegiate varsity soccer player who loves to combine her love for data and human health to have a positive impact on the biotech and health industries. In her free time she can be found reading or building legos.|