Shaping an interdisciplinary leader

Fourth-year information sciences major Shay McDonough continues to work part time for Novartis after completing two co-ops with its IT group. Photo by Casey Bayer.

In high school, Shay McDonough developed an interest in both biology and computer science. At Northeastern, McDonough — now a fourth-year information sciences major — combined her love for both fields on two co-ops for the information technology (IT) group at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, Mass.

“It was a beautiful integration of biology and computer science,” she said.

On her first co-op, McDonough updated a management system to comply with the research organization’s design and IT standards. Her work made it easier for researchers on the cardiovascular and metabolic diseases team to share information with data analysts.

McDonough’s familiarity with team projects helped her land a second co-op as a program manager, a role that enabled her to work on the design of a bigger program that connects users within each of the company’s research areas.

McDonough’s manager, Arturo Morales, global lead at the Novartis Data Federation Initiative, praised her contribution. “As much as this was a learning experience for her, she has made a significant impact in the team and helped us move forward,” he said.

Soon after beginning the project, however, McDonough realized that it would take at least a year to complete. “Co-ops in general are really interested in getting things done and having something you can say you really accomplished in your six months there,” she explained.

But that turned out to be impossible for the hardworking student. Instead of saying goodbye to the project at the end of her co-op, McDonough chose to continue working at Novartis as a part-time employee to see her work through to a later stage of development.

McDonough said the Novartis experience served as a launching pad for a future career, and in her third co-op, she hopes to continue challenging herself even more in the area of user interface.