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“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 afterschool 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.”
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.”
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.