Summer Internship Helps Student Pave the Way for a Biopharmaceutical Career

Christopher Tuffy

A biology major until he changed course midway through his studies at St. John’s University to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, senior Christopher Tuffy followed an untraditional path when he set his sights on a profession in the biopharmaceutical industry.

“I am definitely a bit of an outlier in terms of what type of career I want to pursue and how I ended up there,” said Chris, of Bellerose, NY. The aspiring life sciences consultant is certain of one thing:

“I know I am prepared for wherever my career takes me because of the education I am receiving at St. John’s University and my internship experience at Real Chemistry.”

For 10 weeks this summer, Chris interned at Real Chemistry, an international health innovation company headquartered in San Francisco, CA, as part of their Integrated Intelligence and Analytics team. He was assigned to research and analyze different forms of data for biopharmaceutical clients such as Novartis, the global medicines giant.

His duties included producing social listening analytics, patient journey reports, disease landscape reports, competitive market audits, and influencer analysis on behalf of a wide variety of national and global company clients. Chris’s responsibilities also included creating PowerPoint presentations designed to address client questions about specific diseases.

He collaborated with five fellow interns to develop an analytics-driven campaign pitch for a $400 million brand and presented it to top executives. “I worked on projects that spanned from oncology to neurodegenerative disorders to mental health disorders for some of the largest biopharmaceutical and biotech companies in the industry,” Chris said, as he noted a few of the major highlights of the internship.

He is confident that his work as a biology major and then as a major in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology dovetailed to enhance his research and hands-on experiences at Real Chemistry. “I was able to succeed in this internship because of the strong scientific education I received in both biology and speech pathology,” he said. “Both disciplines allowed me to develop skills that transferred easily to the internship.”

Chris explained that as a biology major, he had the opportunity to receive a solid education in the life sciences, which in addition to biology, includes chemistry, microbiology, neuroscience, and anatomy. 

During his sophomore year, Chris switched his major to Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology after developing an interest in American Sign Language and neuroscience. But he later determined that he also wanted to maintain a footprint in the realm of biology.

“Eventually, I realized that I was extremely interested in the biology behind the different communication, speech, and swallowing disorders that I was learning about in my variety of courses,” Chris explained. “Through that, I discovered that I wanted to work somewhere in health care—and that led me to my internship at Real Chemistry.”

“Chris is an amazing student,” said Max R. Freeman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders, St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “He took two courses with me–Language Acquisition and Phonetics–that were quite difficult, and I was surprised by how quickly he caught on to different concepts and digested the material.”

“His background in biology helped him in his coursework in Speech-Language Pathology and I hope that he can use this knowledge in whatever career he decides to enter,” Dr. Freeman added.

Chris credits St. John’s University Career Services with providing substantial support as he discerned the direction of his career path. “One of the most beneficial resources at St. John’s University is the career center. The center allows students from wherever they are in their career journey to discover what they want to do and how they can achieve it,” he said.

“I had the opportunity to work with almost all of the career advisors,” Chris added. “Through mock interviews, strategic career advice, application tips, alumni contacts, and networking events, I was able to go from being unclear in my career journey to having a strategic plan.”