Internship programme

Lena’s internship story

Coming from primarily a research and clinical background, I was excited to apply my knowledge and skills to an industry setting as an R&D and business development intern.

From the first day, I felt so welcomed and immersed in the friendly, collaborative company culture. Our directors of business development (Manon) and operations (John) made sure I felt at home and settled with their thorough onboarding programme. During my first week, I went to yoga with co-workers after work, a farewell party for one of the interns, and was given a birthday card signed by everyone!

One of the best things about COMPASS is its diversity and the way it brings together people of all backgrounds who are passionate about mental health. People are from all over, from the US to many countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and we had such interesting conversations over lunch and in the office, sharing our cultures while also bonding over the science of mental health, importance of empathy, and access to healthcare.

"A diverse, collaborative culture."

All the interns are incredibly kind, but also brilliant and from top schools around the world. We are all paired with a manager who tailors our internship to our strengths and interests. I loved my manager, Anais, who actively made sure that I was happy with my internship, with our twice-a-week catch-ups, and getting me involved with projects in different areas (not just science as per my background). I worked with senior members of the team who made me feel really valued and important even as ‘just’ an intern.

When I took a medical school entrance exam during my internship, Anais encouraged me to take the day off before to study, and many at work wished me lots of luck and asked me how it was. To support my medical school applications, Anais and our Chief Medical Officer, Hans, wrote me a reference letter and have been actively supporting my process. My fellow interns have had similar support in applications for medical schools, PhD programs, and other jobs.

I learned so much from the various projects that I worked on - from R&D to business development to patient access - and from the COMPASS team who were always patient and happy to explain or help. At the end of my internship, I was asked to offer comprehensive feedback of my time and was also given valuable feedback from many people I worked with. COMPASS really cares about improving as a company and ensuring that every intern has a really great experience.

COMPASS opened my perspective to the world of start-ups, the healthcare industry and mental health. While I still would like to pursue medical training after I finish up at MIT, I am now inspired to apply a medical degree in areas like biotech/pharma industry in addition to clinical practice.

"The intern program is strong, well-structured, and supportive."

Simon’s internship story

I was interested in COMPASS because many of my friends are affected by depression, and current treatments have often proved inadequate for them. COMPASS brings both innovation and compassion to the mental health world, and I have found it exciting to work for a company driven by a purpose I believe in.

Working as an intern in a growing startup has been an interesting experience. I worked mainly on communications and stakeholder engagement, but on occasions I was also involved in preparing documents for investors, replying to information requests and analysing scientific literature. I was encouraged to take initiatives and give my input on some decisions, which made me feel fully integrated in the team.

More than 15 new employees and interns have been recruited since I joined the company in May 2019. The team is diverse, with people coming from New Zealand, Germany, Turkey, France, Lebanon, the Netherlands, and other countries. There is a very sociable work culture: we nearly always eat together at lunch, and I have gone for drinks, dinner, bowling, ping pong games and pub quizzes with the team. The people I have met at COMPASS were one of the highlights of my summer.

Over the course of my internship, I have learnt about the regulatory framework surrounding treatment development, stakeholder engagement in Europe and the US, and the new exciting science around psilocybin. I was able to hone my communications skills and learn from people with a wide range of experiences. COMPASS has made me reflect on the importance of believing in the projects you’re working on, and I’m keen to see how the company will grow in the future.

Perspectives from an intern: tips for your first scientific conference

Traditional internship roles have minimal company travel. At most, you expect to travel the length from your desk to the coffee machine. My COMPASS internship ended a little differently: I was fortunate enough to travel to New Orleans for the very first International Society of Psychedelic Research (ISRP) conference. Here’s what I learned:

Tip 1) Be prepared

The inaugural meeting of the ISRP represents a key moment in the so-called ‘psychedelic renaissance’. I was excited but nervous. I had little expertise to contribute. Hopefully my interest and curiosity could add to the mycelium of psychedelic research.

My first tip is to be prepared: it is crucial to be an informed audience member. Especially because you have the opportunity to talk to researchers in person. Looking back, I wish I had been even more proactive and written questions beforehand for speakers.

Tip 2) Don’t be shy

I had so many questions but didn’t know how to ask them. Drummond, a fellow intern who joined me at the conference, had great advice: “just start by asking people what they thought about the last talk.”A highlight of the conference was the breakout sessions and talking to other attendees. I met physicians, researchers, policymakers, therapists and consultants, each with a different expertise and perspective.

The most important thing at conferences is the people: be curious, open and honest. There is no such thing as a stupid question.

One of the most exciting conversations I had was at the end of the second day. We shared a big table in a well-lit Cajun Café with some researchers and physicians we met at the conference. Theorising, debating and philosophising across topics of science, mental health and consciousness itself, seasoned an already well-seasoned meal.

Tip 3) Have fun!

The final set of talks on the final day detailed the potential use of psychedelics to treat substance-use disorder. The clinical findings of the pilot studies were truly promising. It was a great note to end the day and the conference.

The COMPASS crew celebrated the end of the conference by walking down the (in)famous Bourbon Street, where the colonial architecture is juxtaposed with a youthful exuberance and energy. Perhaps the character of Bourbon Street and New Orleans made this city the perfect setting for the very first ISRP. An old wearied science beleaguered by the complexities of the brain and mind ignited by the promise of a ‘new’ line of inquiry. It is a great privilege to be part of a promising field of science. It is an even greater privilege to do so with such a great team.

By Rahul Sood