Sandbox Stories: Marisa Cameron

Author: Gene Stowe

Marisa CameronMarisa Cameron

In September, months after she came to ESTEEM and soon after she started talking to an AbbVie representative at a job expo on campus, Cameron learned that she had landed a job with the company, fulfilling her first-choice career goal when she joined the program.Marisa Cameron was earning a mathematics degree at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the AbbVie pharmaceutical company has a major office, when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2014. “In the hospital, I was so touched by the whole health care industry and had never seen the whole side of it, whether it was the doctors and nurses in the hospital. It was a terrible experience but really eye-opening. I knew I wanted to go into health care.”

“I really wanted to find some way to tie my math background with business,” says Cameron, who ruled out finance after an internship in that field. “I was originally going to go to Columbia University to receive an engineering degree after Holy Cross. “I felt a one-year master’s gaining more personal and interpersonal and entrepreneurial skills would be beneficial for me. I felt like I couldn’t pass up such an opportunity.”

For her capstone thesis, Cameron is helping commercialize a wearable device, similar to a Fitbit or Apple Watch, that records the speech of children with autism throughout the day’s activities and uses algorithms that translate speech into emotion so parents and teachers can better understand when the child is happy or sad, especially during social interactions.

 “That’s one of the areas they struggle with the most,” she says, adding that her sister who works in special education programs might use the device. “I’m really, really enjoying my project. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to do research. I feel like this device could affect the lives of so many for the better.” Cameron is leading a six-person team that has advanced the company, Patholytix, in the Mendoza Business Plan Competition, another side benefit of her time in ESTEEM.

“One of the main highlights is just the people that I’ve met through ESTEEM, whether it’s my peers or professors or just the career events and networking I’ve done so far,” says Cameron, who joins classmates in intramural sports on campus. “Never in my life would I be able to meet so many amazing people. Another thing is I think I have elevated my research abilities. In undergrad, I didn’t do that much research. This is definitely a way to boost my resume and really develop those research skills that I feel are so important.”

Resume-boosting helped land the AbbVie job, where she will work in Chicago. “The Career Center was so, so helpful in elevating my resume and going into an interview being more confident than I probably ever would have been,” she says. “I give so much credit to the Career Center for that. I feel like I’ve come full circle from being sick to being able to work with such a powerful drug company.”