Happy Birthday to BioBuilder!

BioBuilder turned 12 years old on November 1st, so joy and smiles abounded that day!

Much has happened at BioBuilder during the last dozen years. Let’s take a look back.

By the Numbers

BioBuilder’s student programs have seen tremendous growth in both participation and geographic reach. Here are a few examples…

BioBuilderClub has had 2,271 alumni from 84 schools since 2013. The 256 teams formed by these students have been from 25 U.S. states and six countries.

The High School Apprenticeship Challenge began in 2016. Since then, 173 applicants from 39 schools have been accepted into the Challenge. The program completion rate is a remarkable 93%, and 86 of those students obtained paid summer internships at biotech and life science companies.

The BioBuilder Summer Research Program has been up and running since 2017. In that time, 47 students from the U.S., Canada, and China have completed the program. They conducted research at places such as MIT, LabCentral, and Ginkgo Bioworks – now that’s nothing to sneeze at! Even during the pandemic, students were able to get into the research arena remotely.

The effectiveness of BioBuilder’s groundbreaking student programs and mentorship is best understood in the impact it has on the students’ lives.

Distinguished BioBuilder Alumni

Madison Vigneault​
Madison (along with Michael Sheets!) was one of the first BioBuilderClub alumni back in 2011-2012. They went on to graduate from Saint Anselm College in 2018 with a degree in Biochemistry. Today, Madison is the Principal Associate Scientist of Bioanalytical Assays at Affinivax, which was acquired by GSK in 2022.
Vignesh Vanchinathan
Viggy participated in BioBuilderClub from 2019 to 2021. He is currently studying Biomedical Engineering and Applied Math at Johns Hopkins University, where he is a computational researcher leading an engineering team that is developing a solution for better mobility measurement of Parkinson’s Disease patients.

Without exaggeration, BioBuilder was a life-changing experience. It gave me a glimpse into the world of synthetic biology and its community, which launched me into the field of broader biomedical research. I wouldn't be where I am today without that formative high school experience, and I would highly recommend students participate, at the least for exposure to awesome science!”

Vignesh Vanchinathan
Oscar Jimenez
Oscar is a 2019 alumnus of the High School Apprenticeship Challenge. After completing the coursework and lab training, he obtained a paid summer internship at Indigo Ag. He is currently majoring in Biology at the University of Massachusetts with a concentration in Biotechnology. Oscar is also an undergraduate research intern at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and Harvard, where he is conducting antibody research.
Tara Peterson
Tara is a 2016 alumnus of the Apprenticeship Challenge, which included a paid summer internship at LabCentral. She graduated from Temple University in 2019 with her B.S. in Neuroscience. Tara is currently a Research Scientist at the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research.
Romaisa Shahid
Romaisa is a 2019 alumnus of the Apprenticeship Challenge, which she followed up with a paid summer internship at Eikonizo Therapeutics. Romaisa graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 2023 where she majored in Biology with a Cognitive Science minor. She is currently a Clinical Research Coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital

The BioBuilder High School Apprenticeship Challenge was the pivotal moment that kickstarted my career in research and industry. It gave me the basic skills I needed, introduced me to a supportive community, and opened the door to my first internship ever. It was the solid foundation upon which I built my successful journey in the world of science."

- Romaisa Shahid

BioBuilder was my first real exposure to what synthetic biology was. At the time, my high school didn't have classes or workshops for this topic, so I'm grateful I had this opportunity open for me!"

- Emmanuel Sekyi
Emmanuel Sekyi
Emmanuel is a 2017 alumnus of the Apprenticeship Challenge, after which he followed up with a summer internship in Biomechanics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Emmanuel went on to study at the University of Massachusetts from which he graduated in 2023 with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering focusing on medical device design. Emmanuel is currently a Research and Development Engineer at Boston Scientific, where he is part of a team developing a new device designed to assist in the removal of blood clots from the human body.
Jacob Lei
Jacob completed the Summer Research Program in 2020 – right when the pandemic was in full swing. He didn’t let that stop him, though! Despite the challenges of online learning, including a 5:00 AM start time for West Coast students, the program crystallized Jacob’s interest in synthetic biology and bioengineering. Jacob is currently a Bioengineering student at Rice University.

BioBuilder was the first experience where I could take all the concepts I had learned and apply them to a project where I could define the problem and also what aspect I wanted to solve.”

Jacob Lei

Thinking back at that BioBuilder experience, it was the first time my entrepreneurship spirit was awakened.”

Tian Shi
Tian Shi
Tian attended BioBuilder’s Summer Research Program in 2017. As a student at Georgetown University, she studied both Biology and Cognitive Science and founded a company based on the project she started at BioBuilder. Today Tian is an analyst at Industry Ventures, a venture capital and private equity firm.

Read more student stories and program highlights in BioBuilder's first ever alumni profile book.

from look book

BioBuilder is shaping the future of biotechnology, one student at a time!

You may already know that Dr. Natalie Kuldell was and still is the force behind BioBuilder. But have you ever wondered how she got it moving on its current trajectory?

Natalie Kuldell, BioBuilder's Founder, and Don Shobrys, MIT VMS Director, at an MIT event in February 2023

Starting in 2003, Dr. Kuldell joined the MIT Department of Biological Engineering. As part of a grant from the National Science Foundation, she began to develop a high school biotechnology education strategy based on the MIT content she was teaching. The BioBuilder program began as a pilot in 2007 and was such a success that she began exploring ways to scale and sustain the program.

She approached MIT’s  Venture Mentoring Service which helps MIT entrepreneurs and their ventures to flourish. Dr. Kuldell asked for help from VMS to realize her vision of “a world where everyone’s high school education prepares and inspires them to tackle complex challenges, pursue a wealth-building career, and understand the world around them.”

Her VMS mentors included Don Shobrys, current VMS director and BioBuilder Board member. The mentoring team helped her think through every aspect of creating a successful organization. They helped her with the for-profit vs. non-profit decision, along with putting together the right team, coaching her development as a leader, and many other essentials.

Today, Dr. Kuldell, the once “reluctant entrepreneur,” looks back on her experience working with VMS as “one of the most joyful endeavors of my career.”

You can read more about VMS and Dr. Kuldell’s “building BioBuilder” story in a recent article in MIT’s Spectrum publication.