Using Coop to Combat Cancer

Sean Burns, BS, Chemical Engineering Class of 2013—“Cancer is some­thing that has inter­ested me throughout my life,” said Burns, a 2013 chem­ical engi­neering graduate who attended medical school following graduation. “Even though there are so many treat­ments, inci­dence and mor­tality are on the rise.”

Burns — an Avon, Conn., native who enjoys cooking, snow­boarding and playing guitar — prefers to spend his free time helping others. As a Civic Engage­ment Pro­gram scholar, he vol­un­teered at Brigham & Women’s Hos­pital and spent more than 400 hours tutoring local high-​​school stu­dents at Squash­Busters, an after​​school urban youth devel­op­ment pro­gram on the North­eastern campus.

“Two of the biggest rea­sons I chose to attend North­eastern were its co-​​op pro­gram and the Civic Engage­ment Pro­gram,” Burns said. “It sounded like the per­fect place to be and I couldn’t be happier.”

Co-op Experience

Millenium Pharmaceuticals

Designing com­pounds on co-​​op with Mil­len­nium Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, a Cam­bridge, Mass.-based bio­phar­ma­ceu­tical com­pany, pre­pared Burns for his third coop at Dana-​​Farber. At Millenium, he cre­ated more than 100 mol­e­cules over two six-​​month experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­ni­ties with the company.  “I was doing cutting-​​edge chem­istry with new reagents and new chem­i­cals that sci­en­tists have just begun using in this decade,” he said. The under­grad­uate student-​​researcher said he quickly became an inte­gral part of the team. “Mil­len­nium did a great job of engaging me,” he explained. “I felt like I belonged there and that I was making an impor­tant contribution.”

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

While working in the Bradner Laboratory, Sean had the opportunity to initiate a new research project focused on investigating the protein EZH2. Researchers have recently found that the mutated form of EZH2 is associated with many types of cancer.  This co-op was a follow-up to Sean’s earlier experiences working in the laboratory through the Steamboat Foundation.

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering