As a science research student at Sleepy Hollow High School, the proximity of Regeneron’s headquarters in Tarrytown has always been of interest to me. As a science enthusiast, I am constantly seeking out news on scientific topics.
My interests lie primarily in the human microbiome — the collective genomes of the microbes composed of bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses that live inside and on the human body. But it has been hard to escape news about Covid-19 over the past two years. During this time, I became aware of Regeneron’s novel Covid-19 antibody technology. It is inspiring to know that a leading pharmaceutical company resides so close to my home and school. Its presence has always existed, but my relation to it had not formed until I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. David Buckler.
Dr. Buckler is a senior director for research program management in the section of noninfectious diseases at Regeneron. His role includes overseeing and coordinating various research field departments that become interconnected at the onset of a new drug development. Understanding a development as simple as plant growth requires knowledge of the biological structure of plant cells, the physics of water moving through a plant, and the chemical reaction that creates energy for the plant. Buckler’s knowledge on biotechnology, biochemistry, as well as his outgoing friendliness, and overall experience in the STEM field, made for an interesting conversation.
Buckler’s passion for science emerged as a result of his immersion in the scientific community from an early age. His father worked alongside notable Nobel laureates at a the National Institutes of Health and frequently brought young Dr. Buckler along. He recalls fondly being greeted as a regular guest by his father’s colleagues every time he entered the lab. Despite this, his actual high school education was limited to the fundamental science courses offered. He took part in the regular STEM courses, but it was his inherent interest in science and the ability to develop methodological steps to a posed research question that led him to pursue a chemistry degree at Reed College.
After graduating college, he went on to conduct independent research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both research positions allowed him to grow in experience and knowledge. When he was looking for his next opportunity to grow as a researcher, he landed at Regeneron.
I asked Dr. Buckler to tell me more about how drugs are developed at Regeneron. VelocImmune® mouse technology, used for the creation of monoclonal antibody candidates. He explained its use in creating successful treatments for devastating epidemics such as Ebola and Covid-19. Feats such as these were daunting, unattainable fantasies when he was in college, and now he was overseeing and coordinating this sort of work. Achievements in the scientific community often begin this way – with a farfetched concept or question. Over several years, steps are taken, to reach incremental conclusions and reinforce or discover new information. This is the nature of progression in the STEM world.
At the end of our conversation, I shared with Dr. Buckler my own interest in studying the gut microbiome. I wondered if he had any insight into the direction of research in that field. He said that although the human microbiome is an immensely diverse environment and a difficult one to control and observe, it is the students and scientists that take initiative to understand it that are needed in this world. Its vital role in physical and mental health and an origin point to several common illnesses makes it a worthy area to focus novel research on. Its challenging nature provides a plethora of opportunity and requires the dedication of researchers that will persevere and show grit in their work. It struck me when he said that such a scientist could be me! I will be forever grateful for this encouragement and conversation with Dr. Buckler. I am eager for a career in STEM to be a part of my future.
Wave Waldman is a junior at Sleepy Hollow High School and a second-year science research student. She had previously studied sunscreen UV filter toxicity for the Westchester Science & Engineering Fair and is currently in the process of developing a research project in relation to Alzheimer’s disease pathology with a mentor from the Institute of Translational Sciences. Wave enjoys learning about a diverse range of STEM research because it allows her to understand the complexities of the world from multiple perspectives. Along with science, Wave is an avid dancer, viola player, and varsity cheerleader. She also loves going on family hikes and going out with her friends.