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Pulse - Winter 2023 Destination Excellence: Meet Janssen-Drexel 4D Fellow Desmond Lewis, Second-Year Drug Discovery & Development Student

Desmond Lewis, Janssen-Drexel 4D Fellow

For undergrad, I went to the Citadel in South Carolina. I was always passionate about studying cancer. My grandfather’s passing made me interested to learn more about it. Even in undergrad, I was doing research with professors there that was related to cancer and developing drugs. Once I found Drexel’s program in Drug Discovery and Development, it seemed like the perfect fit. Then I got to talk to Dr. McGonigle and Dr. Mathiasen, and they seemed like great people.

The experience of being a 4D fellow has been amazing. They always ask “What can we do better? What would you change?” I think our only advice was to start our time at Janssen earlier. The first semester we did a rotation at Drexel, and then we went over to Janssen. Being there has been such an amazing experience, with the mentoring, input on the research, and interacting with the team.

The financial support has meant a lot. Initially I was deciding between Drexel and another school. I really wanted to come here for the DDD program, but Drexel wasn’t offering any money. The other school actually offered more money, but I really wanted to come to the program at Drexel. I talked to my parents and prayed about it, and ended up just deciding with my heart and coming to Drexel. My dad said, “We’ll find a way to pay for it,” but I was really stressed about it right before I found out about the fellowship. When Dr. McGonigle told me about it, and I applied and was accepted, it was huge. It made everything easier, because not only were they offering to fully pay for the degree and allow me to do research and Meet Two Janssen-Drexel 4D Fellows Hieu Jeromy, First-Year Pharmacology & Physiology Master’s Student Desmond Lewis, Second-Year Drug Discovery and Development Student be mentored at Janssen, but they were offering a stipend at the time of $10,000 per year. In September they increased it to $25,000 a year. It truly has been a blessing. It’s meant everything to be able to actually study, focus on what I want to do, and not have to worry about finances.

My relationships with the other fellows have been really good. When we started going to Janssen, we all carpooled every time. We’re all pretty close. It’s made it easier because we can talk to each other and work things out. The fellowship is a unique experience, and it does make it easier when the people who are also in the fellowship are great, and they’re super passionate about cancer as well.

I really appreciate the mentoring I’ve received as part of the fellowship. It’s been amazing. I feel like I can ask about any drug project that they’re working on, and get input on how things actually work, how they bring drugs to market. I can also ask about my project — developing a 3D spheroid model to assess penetration of different antibody designs — and help them with their research. It’s a lot of guidance that I didn’t expect initially. In my mind, I was going to be working on my thesis while they worked on actual drug portfolios, but I can see how my project can help their work. This kind of mentorship really develops you as a scientist. It’s an awesome environment.

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