Biotech Major Heidi Saduski ’21 Helping to Fight COVID-19 in the Lab

February 16, 2021
By: Nancy Sheehan

Heidi Sadusky ‘21 is giving the fight against COVID-19 her best shot.

Sadusky has landed a full-time job at the Cambridge laboratories of BioNTech, the Germany-based company that is working with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to produce a highly effective vaccine that is already in use worldwide, offering hope to millions.

Meanwhile, she is finishing coursework so she can graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology. She plans to go on to pursue a master’s degree in chemistry.

Sadusky credits her Worcester State University education with giving her the knowledge and skills for her job as a research associate and peptide chemist at BioNTech. Peptides, or amino acid chains of various lengths, are a key component in vaccines and an area of much recent breakthrough research.

“Being able to work on peptides that contribute to the COVID-19 vaccine is an incredible opportunity that I am overjoyed to have had,” Sadusky says. “I am proud to be a part of a company that aims to help people in innovative ways.”

Working with her professors and fellow students at Worcester State, she learned how to work independently as well as in a team setting. Sadusky says she also learned good laboratory procedures and proper aseptic technique to prevent exposure to pathogens. “Most importantly, I have learned how to follow directions and protocols, skills I have carried over into my everyday life at BioNTech,” she says.

The job is a great fit for Sadusky, who is passionate about science.

“What is most interesting to me is that there are never-ending possibilities and discoveries waiting to be made,” she says. “In research, the more you fail the more you learn. This is a beautiful concept to me.”

That concept comes into play for those times when, as happens with all scientists, Sadusky sets up an experiment only to have it fail.

“If it fails, I still gain knowledge and understanding, which helps me to not only succeed in the future but can also be carried on to other projects,” she says. “If you’re working on an experiment and everything works on the first attempt, you haven’t gained any new knowledge or understanding. Being able to look at failed attempts as something positive and exciting is what drives me to continue to learn and try again.”

Sadusky’s work day involves synthesizing peptides for a variety of research and clinical projects. She spends most of her time working in the lab and attending research meetings. “I am sincerely excited to go to work every day and to know that at the end of the day my time spent in the lab will have contributed to the larger objective of having a positive impact on people’s lives,” she says.

Green chemistry and chemical engineering are two fields that also interest Sadusky. In the future, she hopes to work on projects that contribute to solving some of the world’s environmental problems. “As long as I am in a lab, I know I will be happy.” she says.

Sadusky says she would like to offer a message for other Worcester State students who, like her, get discouraged sometimes as they struggle to balance work and academics. “Hard work pays off,” she says. “Sometimes throughout my college career I would feel discouraged because working full time and being a full-time student is a bit overwhelming. Sometimes it can be hard to see the end goal of all that work and time put in. I promise you; it is worth it. Never give up on your dreams and goals in life because eventually the hardships will end, and you will be so proud of yourself for achieving those goals.”


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