Hannah Mager, a beloved Associate Scientist II on our Discovery and Molecular Engineering team, recently concluded her time at Vor Bio to pursue her PhD, and we couldn’t be more proud of her! Prior to her departure, Hannah shared key learnings from her time here and shared advice for other young scientists looking to take the next step in their careers.
As a fourth year Behavioral Neuroscience student at Northeastern University, I was looking for my third and final co-op on NUWorks, Northeastern University’s career management portal for sharing career, cooperative education (co-op), internship, and XN opportunities. I knew I wanted to be in industry, I didn’t want to be at a huge company, and I wanted to be in the space of immunology. Previously, I had been doing research on CD33 in neuroinflammation, so when I came across a company claiming to knock out CD33 to improve acute myeloid leukemia (AML) treatments, I was intrigued. I reached out to my prior manager, asking for his opinion on this seemingly unusual approach and he said it seemed sound—he was certainly intrigued.
I applied to Vor Bio and I’m now writing this on my second to last day, a little over 3.5 years after applying. I interviewed with John Lydeard of the Target Discovery group, now Discovery and Molecular Engineering, and initially started working on a novel myeloid target within AML. When I interviewed, there were 47 people at the company and as I started, Vor Bio was just starting to restrict onsite personnel due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic. Since then, we’ve moved to a new location, transitioned back to in-person work, I’ve had two managers, transitioned to full-time post-grad, received a promotion, worked on at least four projects (two being in rare disease), and supported the pre-clinical efforts for the trem-cel program.
So why did I stay so long? And what have I learned here at Vor Bio?
Vor Bio is a place with impressive scientific rigor, collaborative and humble people, and a welcoming environment. I was able to grow as a scientist through hands-on experience as well as by sitting in on meetings and hearing the data presented and questions asked. I grew as a person thanks to many supportive team members who valued my contributions both scientifically and personally. I learned to trust my knowledge and abilities, and to ask for support when it was needed. I learned to advocate for myself because I was listened to when I voiced an opinion on the experimental approaches or conclusions. As I head off to graduate school, I feel much better prepared thanks to my time at Vor Bio.
What advice can I pass on to other young scientists?
Seek out a mentor you will work collaboratively with—they’re responsible for facilitating your acquisition of knowledge and growth as a scientist. Along with this, trust yourself—you know more than you think you do. And still, humility is a must because you also don’t know what you don’t know yet. Science is about making errors, learning from it, and trying it again with newfound knowledge. There are so many experts around you at Vor Bio so ask them for support, advice, and direction!
In general, seek out what excites you. Science can be challenging and daunting, so without passion it’s hard to commit to the work. If you’re considering graduate school, consider all the other options just as much. If you enjoy industry research and can find a lab you’re excited about, that research will likely be just as fulfilling as an academic setting. If graduate school is for you, ask for advice! I’m joining a Graduate Partnership Program between the NIH and University College London for my PhD, recommended by our Chief Scientific Officer, Tirtha Chakraborty, PhD, that I never would have found otherwise.
From all of us at Vor Bio, we wish Hannah the best of luck in her PhD program!