Internships can be extremely valuable to students looking for experience, but only if it’s the right internship.
The pharma and biotech industry has snowballed in Ireland in recent years, and jobs are plentiful.
But budding young scientists are eager to get the right experience to introduce themselves to a career in the biotech industry with work experience and internships.
Elizabeth Madojutimi is an intern at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). She told Siliconrepublic.com why she chose BMS for her internship and what she got out of the programme.
What are you studying in college?
I am studying chemical and bioprocess engineering in University College Dublin (UCD). I just finished my third year when I came to BMS Cruiserath Biologics for a 15-month internship.
What drew you to BMS when you were seeking an internship?
During the second year of my course, I developed an interest in the biopharmaceutical industry when I took elective modules that explored the entire biologics manufacturing process from cell revival, right up to the purification processes of the final drug substance.
These modules gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of what is involved in the biopharma industry.
So, when I attended a science fair in my university and found out that BMS were building a state-of-the-art biopharma facility in Dublin 15, I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to gain valuable experience in the biopharma sector.
BMS had also just partnered with the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) to develop a new bioprocessing lab for the manufacturing science and technology team while the new biologics manufacturing facility was under construction.
This was very exciting because it is very rare that a student in my position would be involved in an enormous start-up project like this. Most importantly, I could really see a future for myself in BMS.
What expectations did you have before you began your internship?
Prior to joining BMS, I expected to be based in the lab as an assistant helping full-time employees with their daily tasks, and whatever project they were working on.
I didn’t think that I would be entrusted with anything major due to my lack of experience.
What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?
Initially, I was tasked with the responsibility of shadowing a senior scientist within the manufacturing science and technology department and performing tasks to aid the team in setting up the satellite lab in NIBRT. I was also involved in the day-to-day maintenance and running of the lab.
Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?
The scope of my work did not change, but the level of responsibility and ownership I initially had increased as I became more experienced in my lab-based and office work. Great opportunities quickly came up that allowed me to diversify and develop many skills.
Some of my main projects that I worked on in the early stages of my internship include development of our small-scale chromatography models, development of the downstream task-based risk assessment, tech transfer of the filtration processes and many more.
These projects included liaising with the BMS global network, setting up meetings and having discussion with scientists from around the world to drive the project forward.
Can you describe a typical day in your role?
I wouldn’t say there is such a thing as a typical day in my role at the moment, as projects and responsibilities change regularly due to company needs.
Currently, on average, my tasks would include running experiments, interpreting the resultant data and document reviewing. I would complete these tasks all while creating time for team huddle meetings and cross-collaboration process meetings.
What key things have you learned during this internship?
I have learned a huge amount of information and skills during my internship. I have diversified and further developed my skills through different projects I’ve worked on, and also through various relationships with co-workers in the BMS network.
On the technical side, some of the skills I have improved are accountability, time management, presentation skills, problem-solving and analytical skills. In addition, I also focused on developing aspects around team integration and collaboration.
Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?
Yes, it has. Being immersed in the laboratory work that I do has increased my interest in the manufacturing science and technology organisation.
Being a part of the satellite lab set-up, small-scale purification model development and establishing the purification labs in the new Cruiserath biologics manufacturing facility has given me a better understanding and appreciation of not just the scientific side of things, but also an awareness of the business, procurement and logistic side of setting up a manufacturing science and technology lab.
Do you feel more prepared for working life following your internship?
Yes, I do feel more prepared for working life. This internship has given me a greater appreciation for the value of collaboration. You need to be able to collaborate and communicate across different departments and different sites.
Also, meeting people from different sites, from all parts of the business, has allowed me to develop a network of contacts. I now have connections within the biopharma industry, as opposed to none when I started.
In conclusion, the experience I am gaining will certainly give me an advantage when applying for jobs in the future, as I am able to hit the ground running after I graduate.
Why should someone take up an internship at this company?
I would recommend that people take up an internship in BMS so that they can increase their knowledge and understanding of the industry. This would prevent dedicating yourself blindly to a career that you have no experience in.
BMS is a global organisation, thus they provide greater opportunities than other companies with a smaller network. There are increased opportunities to network and meet people from all over the globe.
The culture in BMS is great too. You really feel a sense of camaraderie with the workers, which further helps your learning process. Everyone is willing to help so it’s okay if you don’t particularly know how to do something you are tasked with.
It is easy to feel like a small fish in a big pond when you are new to a huge organisation, but with BMS you really don’t get that feeling. Your ideas and feedback are heard. There is a culture of ‘everyone is important’.
BMS’s main focus is on their patients who are dependent on their products. I feel like this gives me a sense of purpose in all my tasks. When you intern with BMS, you feel valuable, everything you’re doing is a piece of the puzzle for the greater picture, which is caring for the patients.
BMS Cruiserath Biologics are excited to be launching their new graduate programme. For more information, check out the BMS graduate page.