Internship Field: Chemistry, Pharmacy
Major: Chemical Engineering
Location: Frankfurt a.M.
Duration: June – September 2008
Description: I worked mostly independently on the synthesis of an API, however I was often in contact and interacting with two other students, one getting his Diplom and the other her Bachelor’s. Our project was to evaluate the current batch process used for production of the CNS pharmaceutical Depakine through examination of alternative synthesis routes to minimize financial, environmental and labor costs with a streamlined, in continuo process. I reported findings to multiple French and German supervisors and obtained further project time allocation to follow promising leads. In addition to chemical synthesis, I worked on obtaining GC calibration curves to enable in process control via a complete mass balance. I was also encouraged to inquire about the other ongoing department projects involving continuous flow microreactors, cake & filtration optimization, and short path & wiped film distillation.
The main techniques/ concepts were: organic synthesis process optimization; batch reaction (atmospheric & pressure vessels) from 0.3 to 5L scale; fraction distillation; gas chromatography; filtration; phase transfer catalysis; in process control using turbidity, pH, and mass balance.
Comments: I definitely acquired new laboratory skills and critical thinking skills that will be useful in future pharmaceutical/ biotechnology fields however I did feel that the project I was working on was not of too significant importance. At the end of the project, it was commented that the project would not have been done had there not been students, so that reinforced my opinion. This is understandable though considering the interns were only there for a few months at a time. I also feel the project was appropriate for someone of my skills for the most part and I learned much more than just the technical skills. [...]
I received more responsibility and more challenging work as the internship progressed, and I also had the opportunity of seeing some of my suggestions put into play as well as being able to create my own experiments and run them, for the most part, single-handedly.
Personally rewarding: By the end of the summer, I had a very close working relationship with one of the Ph.D.’s I shared an office with and especially with my supervisor. The entire office was very understanding and welcoming, and we always spent at least an hour each day, going to lunch together and drinking coffee afterwards. We had regular brunches whenever anyone left or joined the office and had multiple department dinners. When I left, after throwing a brunch, my coworkers gave me a signed photo album, a poem (!) one of my coworkers had written for me, a German flag, and a beer krug and company mug. I have no corporate lifestyle to compare this with, but I really felt like I was leaving a close group of friends at the end of the summer, and any job I find following this will have to meet a stringent criteria for an enjoyable work environment.
German language skills: I did not use as much German as I could have, mainly because I was hesitant to use German in the very intimidating lunch and coffee break setting. My projects had to be explained to me in English, however I had to write lab reports in German and towards the end of the internship I was regularly speaking German.
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