Pfizer Internship Experience
Greetings to everyone who is reading this,
This is Krishi A Mantri, a third-year undergraduate student from Chemical Engineering (by choice XD), and this is not another non-core summer blog XD. I’m writing this short blog about my summer internship experience at Pfizer Worldwide RnD, the one producing COVID vaccines (please don’t ask me for supplies XD)
I’m a chemical engineering enthusiast and always keen on exploring various opportunities in the core. I also love the increasing blend of chemical engineering and Biology over the years. How can one do wonders when one applies simple engineering principles in fundamental biological sectors like microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, etc., to create great technologies in healthcare and modern therapeutics.
I will try to structure my blog into three parts, finding internships, my work at the internship, and learning outcomes, in the same order.
First of all, speaking of my experience finding internships during the second year, summers were a little bit unplanned. Initially, during January month, I had sent a few emails to various professors from foreign universities. I hadn’t received a single reply from the 20-30 emails I had sent, which made me lose interest in the apping process. This is something I would advise you against since the process requires a lot of patience. So, keep that in mind whenever you begin. I had also applied for some university research programs from Caltech, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilts University but had been rejected from all of them due to various reasons.
So I stopped looking at internship opportunities and decided to focus on projects under institute professors for the summer. Later on, in March, I got in touch with a process scientist at Biocon Biologics (one of the leading modern therapeutics companies in Bangalore). He agreed to offer me an onsight internship on downstream processing of various therapeutics (basically, the purification processes). Still, there was a lockdown in Bangalore, and the company refused to entertain any interns. This made me lose all my hope from the apping process, and I decided not to pursue an internship during the summers.
Later one day, one of my very close senior friends had sent me a LinkedIn opportunity floated by Pfizer Worldwide RnD for Chemical Engineering students of the second year and higher. Frankly speaking, I was highly demotivated to apply and didn’t even consider it an option considering that people from all over India were applying for the position. There were more than 250 applications for two positions. But then, a constant motivation from the senior friend made me apply through the LinkedIn page.
A solid piece of advice while applying through LinkedIn would be updating your profile and making it holistic. This means that you could make it similar to your resume and enter all your achievements, work experience, PoRs, projects, and even interests, as this is the primary source to look you up for the recruiter. For this, you can go through various profiles of seniors you might know and have done similar work like you. This helped me a lot to make a decent-looking profile on LinkedIn.
Continuing to my story, I accidentally got to know from one of my friends that the recruiter was a good friend of one of the professors in the department. So instantaneously, I wrote an email to the professor requesting that he put in a word for me and agreed. Make sure that while writing such an email, make your motive very clear in the subject itself. Later on, I was called for an interview which majorly was a discussion on my resume and work experience. The interviewers consisted of a panel of two PhD professionals from Pfizer, out of which one of them was an IITB Alumnus and the head of the process modelling division there. We had a pretty constructive discussion on their team, my role, and expectations. Later that day, I got a call from them that I had been selected for the internship.
My project was majorly based on optimising a unit operation in their novel drug-making process using computational modelling and simulations. I had to optimise the spray congealer in which the molten drug droplets solidify to form small drug beads which go directly into the capsules. For doing this, I had modelled the solidification process using OpenFOAM and even used various computational solving techniques to make predictions. This gave me a much-needed understanding of how actual projects work in the industry, where their primary focus is the output and economics, along with basic research principles. Also, as the internship was itself computational therefore work from home wasn’t an issue.
My key takeaways weren’t limited to the project and its engineering principles but also how to approach a problem that seems unsolvable at the beginning with your current skills. It taught me how to break complex problems into many simple parts and just attempt one at a time without thinking of the rest.
I got great mentors in the form of my managers, who used to meet up with me regularly and discuss progress. We had periodically update meetings which were in itself very enriching in terms of discussion quality we had. They not only guided me through the project but also gave me excellent career advice. The best example was my supervisor, Dr Kiran Iyer’s advice while choosing between internships in the third year. He made my decision to choose between an internship at Michigan University and HUL easier by making me realise it is not the name that matters, but the experience and the work output you get out of it counts.
All in all my experience as a process modelling intern at Pfizer was terrific, which made real changes in me on how I look at problems not only in projects but also in life, strengthened my passion for core chemical engineering, and blessed me with really good mentors.
I would highly recommend all the students in their second year to give their core department a chance and explore it. Shifting to non-core fields is simple, which I got to know from my own experience this internship season but do give your core department a shot.,
Lastly, I would like to thank Ayush Dahale (my baap ISAA in insti lingo XD), the senior who motivated me to take up this fantastic opportunity.
Before ending the blog, a few last comments put persistent efforts while apping and try and begin it well in advance. Look for your interests rather than following what the masses do. Follow your gut and never fall for peer pressure. In the end, keep putting effort into whatever field you choose; you get the outcome.