Samantha Wang D’25 spent winter break working toward more equitable sunblock options for people of color, in an internship that was made possible through Magnuson Center support.
When Samantha Wang heard about a startup at MIT working to make better sunscreen products for people of color, she immediately understood the need.
“The sunscreen that we have, they’re not inclusive enough for all human faces to use,” says Wang D’25.
Sunscreen protects people from harmful rays through two means. Chemical particles react with radiation, reducing its harm before it penetrates the skin. At the same time physical particles, like zinc oxide, provide a barrier that reflects harmful UV rays off the skin.
Unfortunately, those physical partials can leave a white residue, particularly on darker skin tones. Wang knew she was interested in helping develop sunscreen options that were safe and comfortable for people of all skin types, particularly people of color.
Over the winter break, Wang was able to intern at B.A.I, a skincare company based in Cambridge. The small startup wasn’t able to provide payment or a stipend, so Wang relied on a Wily Initiative Fund Grant, administered through the Magnuson Center, to cover her costs.
The Wily Initiative Fund Grants provide financial resources that allow students to take internships and gain real-world work experience at startups that don’t have the resources to pay interns. The program is part of the larger Entrepreneurial Internship Program, which places and support students in internships at entrepreneurial ventures, including start-ups, venture capital firms and technology companies.
Having the grant allowed Want to say yes to an opportunity over winter break.
“If I didn’t have this grant, I might have to reconsider whether or not I would do this internship,” she says.
Instead, she was able to pay for her cost of living during the month-long internship using the $2,500 grant. That let her focus on furthering her education and getting a taste of what life is like at a biotech startup.
“The opportunity to do this internship definitely made me see how much effort you have to put into a startup company,” Wang says.
During her internship, Wang was able to conduct some experiments in the lab. She also gathered research on existing sunscreen options, analyzing their ingredients and formulas.
She admired the way that her boss Sophie Bai, the founder of B.A.I., balanced her time, moving easily between lab experiments to meetings with investors and bringing her passion to both.
"That’s what I learned: a person needs to manage their time well, and also have an interest to support them in this role,” Wang says. “Doing a startup is very tiring, but can be rewarding.”
Wang saw how operations work at a tiny company and how that differs from what she’s learned about business management at school.
“It was very good exposure for me to take a look at how a company could operate,” she says.
Before being awarded the grant, Wang had little experience with the Magnuson Center. She signed up for the center’s mailing list after attending meetings of Women in Innovation, a program of the Magnuson Center.
“That’s how I started to know this amazing place,” Wang says.
Now she encourages other students, even those without a background in entrepreneurship, to keep up-to-date with Magnuson Center offerings.
“I really appreciate this opportunity,” she says.