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Meet David, RiSM intern at Roche

Hi, my name is…

…David, and I’m from Germany. I’m studying bio- and chemical engineering (master’s) at the Technische Universität Braunschweig. My interest in pharmaceuticals and healthcare in general, started back in my bachelor’s, when I was studying bioengineering, and later on when I was doing an Erasmus exchange year to Seville, where I had the chance to focus a bit more on pharmaceutical sciences. Afterwards, I did my final bachelor thesis about the production of ibuprofen granules with enhanced drug release, which led to a publication followed by an internship at Novartis (Basel) in the field of crystallisation. My ambition is to use engineering principles to improve people’s lives and that is also why I joined Roche as part of the Roche Internship in Small Molecules (RiSM) program, which bridges research and product development and offers many different internships in the area of Small Molecule Drug Development to students in process engineering, pharmaceutical sciences and related studies.

My typical day at work is…

…about improving what I have! I’m working in the field of process modelling and simulation of fluid bed granulation, which means a lot of computer work. I also have to plan a specific and limited number of experiments to validate my model. Basically, I’m responsible for making sure that the simulations run, and I try as best I can to fit the model to the experimental results. Whenever I encounter an issue or the prediction deviates from reality, I try to find a way to fix or improve it. I do a lot of research as well because I have to make sure I understand both the outcome of the simulation and the theory behind my process. My work also consists of exchanging knowledge with the responsible engineers (modellers) of the software by speaking directly to them. Sometimes I need information, and part of my day is looking for and speaking to the right people.

The location I am working at is…

…impressive. I work at the main site in Basel, where around 10,000 people from all kinds of business areas work. A great chance to network and get to know many different people! I work in an open-space office in one of the newer buildings, where solid dosage GMP and non-GMP production takes place too. I also had the task of working in a non-GMP lab, where I had to perform small-scale experiments for validation purposes. Aside from the fluid bed granulator I was working with, we have all kind of other solid stage manufacturing equipment.

My work helps Roche to …

…save resources, time, and potentially bring drugs faster to patients by accelerating drug development. Moving experiments at lab and pilot scale to the computer by using modelling and simulation could save energy and API in the drug development process. Many simulations can be run on a computer within minutes, whereas it takes several days or weeks to perform them experimentally. That saves a lot of time. My work helps Roche to get more insight into how precisely the models can actually predict the experiments.

Roche as an employer is…

…very pleasant and courteous. People are very friendly here and I get support from whoever I  talk to right from the beginning. Colleagues are helpful and respectful and whenever I have an issue or problem to solve, I’m able to find help, explanations, and advice in a nice way. I never feel discriminated against because I'm only an intern. In fact, I feel very integrated and part of the team. All that improves the overall atmosphere in my immediate environment, which motivates me to work in collaborations. Roche also offers many career opportunities in all kind of fields (I even met a historian!) and other benefits, like discounts for several gyms and even cars.

Compared to my experience at university, science at Roche is…

…target-oriented and purposeful. I’m impressed that the actual mechanistic models published in scientific papers are implemented in the simulation and modelling software I use. It gives me the feeling that it has a purpose in the end, and is not only a theoretical description of what is happening in the processes. You can literally feel that people want to find solutions here. Also, the availability of all kind of equipment and scientific expertise under one roof is quite remarkable.

The RiSM Programme helps me to develop because…

...I have responsibilities I didn’t have before. Although my supervisor is there to help and has an interest in the outcome of the project, I’m ultimately the one responsible for it. That includes doing the planning, talking to the right people, getting some answers, performing experiments, investigating if something doesn’t work, making decisions, and also communicating with our partners on my own. It has helped me to approach problems in a professional way and to search for solutions independently.

To people who are interested in the RiSM programme, I would recommend them to…

...definitely apply! And don’t be scared if you don’t have the perfect profile for the position. I didn’t have all the background but I got trained and integrated quite quickly. You also get the opportunity to meet a lot of other interns and share their experiences, as well as colleagues who are experts in all kind of fields. It's a great opportunity to be so close to them and actually be able to speak to them in person.

Interested in learning more about the RiSM programme at Roche? Click here for more information.

Tags: Career Blog, Switzerland, Basel, Research, Early In Career, Research & Development