AbbVie joins Research Park to offer students work experience

This+recently+developed+innovation+center+is+the+product+of+a+partnership+between+AbbVie+and+the+University.+It+will+employ+18+students+and+provide+work+on+research+projects+in+informatics%2C+text+mining+and+analytics+software.
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AbbVie joins Research Park to offer students work experience

This recently developed innovation center is the product of a partnership between AbbVie and the University. It will employ 18 students and provide work on research projects in informatics, text mining and analytics software.

This recently developed innovation center is the product of a partnership between AbbVie and the University. It will employ 18 students and provide work on research projects in informatics, text mining and analytics software.

This recently developed innovation center is the product of a partnership between AbbVie and the University. It will employ 18 students and provide work on research projects in informatics, text mining and analytics software.

This recently developed innovation center is the product of a partnership between AbbVie and the University. It will employ 18 students and provide work on research projects in informatics, text mining and analytics software.

By Elyssa Kaufman

For Brian Bernier, finding a job on campus to benefit his career came from Research Park’s newest pharmaceutical company, AbbVie, where he is able to combine schoolwork with real world job experience.

“AbbVie has influenced my University experience, really by serving as another class,” he said. “To be able to come into a work environment that is in a field that I am going to want to work in for my career is really good exposure.”

Bernier, a sophomore studying computer science and math, is one of eight students currently employed by AbbVie. He is currently working in information technologies, making programs that scientists will be able to use to facilitate data analytics and advance their research.

Research Park partnership

AbbVie partnered with Research Park on Sept. 17, and the AbbVie Innovation Center recently opened on Jan. 20. “AbbVie is delighted to partner with the University of Illinois on this innovation center because it’s an opportunity to access the great minds that are at the University,” said Allison Scherer, director of R&D Communications at AbbVie. “This can help us think through solutions to some of our IT challenges that we might have when it comes to research and development.”

Laura Frerichs, director of Research Park, said students will be involved in information technology research projects related to informatics, text mining and analytics software.

Frerichs said the North Chicago-based company makes some of the leading pharmaceutical drugs that are used for various disease states or improvements in human lives.

In total, Frerichs said Research Park holds about 90 companies, including 17 large corporations that offer employment opportunities for students. She said Research Park has around 1,600 employees, 500 of which are students working primarily in part-time roles while they are still in school.

Student employment

Student employment and involvement is a main part of AbbVie’s role on campus. Frerichs said the company is primarily recruiting students with an information technology background, including students from the engineering or computer science departments. Students with more of a math and statistics background can help with data analysis, she said. 

As a student employed with AbbVie, Bernier said hours can range from six to 20 hours a week. Bernier is currently working 16 hours a week, which usually means he comes in five days a week for around three hours a day. Frerichs said the average wage for student interns at Research Park is $18 an hour.

“This gives students a chance to use what they are learning in the classroom and apply the information to real world circumstances, while working in the part-time capacity,” Frerichs said. “Then, those students are often offered jobs upon graduation for the company, which has become a way to kickstart a career early while students are here at Illinois.”

Bernier said his role at AbbVie is to help the project managers develop projects that will help visualize clinical science research data. They can then use that visual to pass onto other scientists in order to make connections in advanced research. 

Bernier has had an interest in computer math and science since high school, and said working at AbbVie as a computer science major is the best option for him.

“The allocation that I’m using here at AbbVie, I have had no prior experience with,” Bernier said. “My background knowledge from my classes that I have taken at U of I has helped me to develop the skills necessary and adapt to the languages that the application uses.”

AbbVie projects 

Scherer also discussed the specific projects that the Research and Development Information Technology group is working on at AbbVie.

The group is working on real world projects by using visualization software that helps AbbVie scientists see critical trials and research data in new ways, which she said can lead to discoveries that will improve patient care.

“There are reporting tools that the AbbVie Innovation Center project teams will be working on that will help the AbbVie medical teams identify additional areas of research,” Scherer said. 

Elyssa can be reached at [email protected].