At Institut Curie, Biological Engineering student Nicole Kogan explores intracellular receptors and immunotherapy
Nicole Kogan '18 in her workspace at Institut Curie, Paris.

Kogan’s internship at Institut Curie inspired her to continue studying microbiology and immunology at MIT

Before beginning her internship in Paris last summer, Nicole Kogan looked forward to the prospect of both exploring a new structure of research and understanding different cultural ideas. Having studied French for several years, she was ready to live there, and to experience firsthand the wealth of scientific knowledge which Paris has to offer. At Institut Curie, a non-profit research center focusing on cancer treatment, she was not disappointed. Her training in new areas, such as microscopy, was “totally awesome,” and she found it “super cool” to be able to visualize her research through immunofluorescence microscopy. Overall, she felt that it was a “phenomenal research experience.”

An interdisciplinary project

Under the direction of Philippe Benaroch, Nicole’s lab focused on how humans’ immune systems fight cancer, as well as immunological responses to tumors. “My project was concerned with – at a molecular level – how the nonspecific immune system detects viruses,” Nicole explains. One of her project goals was to understand how an intracellular receptor called TLR3 is compartmentalized. This would allow her research team to better comprehend the biology of these receptors, which could “lead to modulation of their activity in the context of immunotherapy.” Nicole drew heavily from her MIT coursework in biochemistry and biology; she even brought her notes from previous courses, so that she would have a solid foundation for consulting basic principles. In addition, she used her knowledge of Python to create a few simple programs for the lab, allowing her to employ a variety of skills. The many facets of her internship mirrored the complexity and interdisciplinary nature of her research interests.

Learning beyond the lab

Nicole’s experience helped her grow not only academically, but also personally. From dinners at local restaurants with co-workers to watching EuroCup games to exploring farmers’ markets and festivals, Nicole felt completely immersed in Parisian culture. She also overcame an initial language barrier with her postdoctoral supervisor, and remains in contact with her, her host PI, and another graduate student in the lab who mentored her. In addition, she hopes to return to France soon. “I would love to return to France – specifically to this lab in Curie,” Nicole says. “I am now entertaining the option of graduate school in France after this summer’s experience.” 

Through the MIT-France Program, I have grown to understand that the scientific community transcends geographical borders. This aspect – as well as my phenomenal research experience in Paris this summer – inspire me to press on to and uncover the scientific unknown.

  • France
  • Internship
  • BioE/ChemE