Studying the theory and working in practice is a whole different story

Entrepreneurial Scotland (ES) are known for their ethos of bolstering Scottish business and having a positive impact on economic growth in Scotland.

After a meticulous application process, then fortunately managing to secure an offer early in the process, I was met with a moment of stillness after the exam period in my biomedical science degree. Not long after my exams and I was preparing for my internship adventure. The first day of my on-site internship joining “Upstream Process and Development” at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies Billingham was an immersive one. I soon found out I would be in a lab wearing a lab coat, safety glasses and latex gloves more times in a day than I had seen an England flag outdoors at the time of the Euro football. I felt initially unprepared as I was the only Satire Scholar intern starting out, but I soon met Interns from other universities doing a yearlong placement.

The first day was an induction day showcasing the department’s facilities and a general lab tour. I would still need more training before I could work in the lab. Although I couldn’t perform any of the main lab processes, I spent most of my time watching and following people around the lab for the first few days which was extremely helpful. Being new, the amount of information that had been thrown at me and that I had managed to remember was a positive shock.

Finding out where everything was in the lab was like navigating through a massive maze at first. Getting to do what I had learned at university and had been reading in textbooks was a good experience. It soon became apparent that studying in theory and working in practice was a whole different story. Observing projects at different development stages according to customer requirements was fast paced but luckily there were people available to guide me through the process.

After the lab induction training, I was quite excited as this meant I could really use the lab equipment and help a lot more around the lab. Initially it seemed slightly intimidating to ask people to help with whatever projects they were working on. Everyone was extremely accommodating; I was quick to learn that asking experienced people for help around the lab was one of the easiest things to do. I was positively looking forward to my time ahead.

My internship experience onsite at FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies so far has been a bag of unplanned surprises. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies UK (FDBK) is a Contract Development and Manufacturing organisation producing biotherapeutics for the healthcare market. From my first days of working in England to now, I have met people in different specialties who have all been extremely welcoming towards me. Coming into a well-established work environment of a small team where relationships have already formed and grew, I would say the staff have made it easy for me to work as part of the work culture and the superb team I am part of.

From weighing raw materials and endless volumes of Purified Water to preparing medium for fermenters to doing manual checks on five-figure fermenters for scale-up fermentation to harvesting broth from bioreactors/fermenters to batch centrifugations, my first few weeks of work experience with FUJIFILM have been a whirlwind.

I could have never predicted the fast pace of how my internship would be progressing, but I wouldn’t change it, knowing there are people around who are open to help me and direct me in the right direction. I had seen the heavy-work load and time-demanding nature of using industrial fermenters and had accepted no matter how much experience you had, you couldn’t be any less disheartened when something went wrong in your process. Working the next few weeks would mean gaining a better understanding on common terms like “MFCS” software and “Antifoam cloud point” and learning even more new things.

The period had finally come where I had hit the one-month stepstone of my 10- week internship with Fujifilm. After a few weeks, I had become more accustomed to hours of being on my feet in a workday with the only thing that was now seemingly overworked at the end of a week was a relatively stained lab coat.

After being in the Upstream Process and Development for a month, I have the confidence I never thought I would have to work by myself if needed. By this point, my learning curve had started peaking and it seemed the trickles of newcomer knowledge I had retained in my first weeks when compared to what I knew now were really surges of information. I have experienced more types of training such as homogenisation, seed vessel inoculation, microbial analytics and HTP training working with different robotic machines.

As an intern within the projects team, contributing to the progression of process development for project goals and biotherapeutic goals of Fujifilm was becoming easier and more conceivable. Being surrounded by motivating and understanding staff within the Upstream team was a part of this.

Although my science background was useful in picking up terminology and references, most of my learning came about from practical lab experience. I was almost always working as a part of a team as our time-demanding workload was distributed in a way that meant everyone was doing something, so the required task could be completed faster. If there was any problem encountered, you were able to ask someone with greater experience for help. Working in Fujifilm and learning more about the industrial biotherapeutics field has been exciting and extremely informational.

Among my initial thoughts starting out in Fujifilm, were how could I make the most of this experience as a Saltire Scholar and what was upstream process and development lab experience going to look like. As someone undergoing their final year in their biomedical science undergraduate degree, seeing the industrial side of science has been refreshing. It has given me more insight in career options that I may have when I eventually complete my undergraduate degree. I am now enthusiastic at the chance that I may work within process development again or at another stage in a research and development supply chain company in the future.

After speaking to the hospital science staff that I worked with, the idea that different academic routes and compiled experiences make up a scientist in the biotherapeutics industry was reinforced in my mind. The completion of my to-be-chosen honours project once I returned to university could be anticipated with more appreciation now that I had been a part of the big industry picture in the science museum.

My experience in research and development that I have been undertaking has been invaluable and can be applied to the innovative mindset I will need to have throughout academia. The lab work I have been included in has been both challenging and incredible. The experimental write-up and presentation I was involved in about a study carried out (monitoring antifoam addition in fermentation processes) was good experience of scientific experimentation and reporting as research is often shared as concise information with other scientists.

The impromptu office tennis games at lunchtime announced by someone getting welted with a Styrofoam ball, continued with even more terrible passes, and not ending until at least five other people were caught in the crossfire will also be missed. I have had a good taste of industry working with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies and am glad I did a summer internship with Fujifilm in Billingham.

Written by: Dami Adeleke, University of Strathclyde, Process Development Projects Intern, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, Billingham (In person)
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