Adam Boehm ’15 – I cannot express enough gratitude for the opportunities I have had this summer thanks to the Small Business Internship Fund. When I first discovered the posting for a chemistry intern with PROFUSA, Inc. in San Francisco, I never expected I would be offered the position and spend my summer in California. As a premed student, I was looking for a summer opportunity that would help me gain experience in the medical field, and PROFUSA has provided me just that. PROFUSA is a small startup biomedical device company specializing in creating sensors that can monitor real-time body chemistries non-invasively. I had no idea what this meant for me as a chemistry intern, and it took several weeks for me to fully grasp what I was doing.
My day typically begins at 7:30 as my fellow interns, Doug Baker and Terrence Zhou, get ready to make the 20-minute drive from our apartment near Lake Merced to PROFUSA in South San Francisco. I spend the majority of my day in the lab working on various projects I have been assigned for the summer. The details of some of these projects are proprietary to PROFUSA and cannot be discussed, but that just makes my job more exciting. The two main projects I have been working on are testing how different pore sizes for the smart-sensing hydrogels affect their performance, and creating different types of skin phantoms for in vitro studies. Both projects have required a lot of research and learning on my part. With the skin phantom project, I am working on creating silicone molds that mimic the optical properties of human skin (absorbance, fluorescence, scattering, etc.). Using combinations of different dyes, I have been able to create formulas for phantoms that represent both oxygenated and deoxygentated hemoglobin. After each formulation is made, I use different machines in the lab to get the phantom’s absorbance and fluorescence to compare to real hemoglobin.
In addition to the microplate readers I use for absorbance scans, I have also learned how to use other lab equipment such as SEM, YSI, BGA, and the laser cutter at UCSF. The chemistry team has been remarkably helpful in teaching me lab protocol and procedures. Everyone is great to be around, which makes for a very fun work environment. The great thing about working for a startup company is that every task, no matter how seemingly small, plays a large role in the progress and growth of the company. I truly feel like I have been able to make a great contribution to PROFUSA.
This summer has not been all work, though. The drive across the country was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. I took six days to drive from Indiana, through St. Louis, Denver, made a stop in Moab, UT to see Arches National Park, stayed a night at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and drove along the coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Now that I’m settled in my apartment I spend most of my free time exploring San Francisco and the surrounding areas. I live within walking distance to the beach and it’s only a 10-minute drive to get downtown. In addition to several Giants games, and a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I’ve made a weekend trip to Yosemite, Sequoia National Forest, and went horseback riding at the bottom of King’s Canyon. We already have our tickets for a tour of Alcatraz and Angel Island, and have a trip planned with alumnus Daren Courter ’89 to go camping and Abalone diving in Ft. Bragg.
This has been one of the best experiences of my life living on the West Coast and working for PROFUSA. I again want to thank the SBIF for making this all possible. As great as this summer has been, I will be ready for the cross-country drive back home to see my friends and family in mid-August.