Meet Helena, Intern in Formulation Process Research & Development at Roche

roche, careers, helena, switzerland

Hi, my name is…

…Helena. I’m a process engineering student at ETH Zurich. I was born and raised in Frankfurt before I moved to Switzerland, where I completed my schooling and started my studies. As I need practical work experience for my master’s degree, I’m currently doing an internship in Process Research and Development for solid dosage forms. This internship is part of the Roche Internship in Small Molecules programme (RiSM) and gives me the opportunity to gain work experience as an engineer and an insight into a global company in the pharmaceutical sector. During my studies I worked part-time as a German teacher and as an assistant at my university, where I performed experiments in the lab and taught chemistry to a group of mechanical engineering students. I learned how to organize my time and work independently, which prepared me well for my current position at Roche, where I can apply my engineering skills to real-world challenges.

My typical day at work is…

…mostly independent. I work on models and simulation tools on my own, after defining objectives and methods with my supervisor. I consult recent literature and textbooks before developing a model using dedicated process modelling software, as well as Excel and MATLAB. Once a week I meet with fellow engineers to tackle tricky mathematical questions and software problems. These meetings are useful because we can benefit from the knowledge and experience in the team, and also interesting because they provide insight into other projects. I can also count on my colleagues in the lab to show me the equipment when I ask them to, as well as on pharmacists working on projects when I need their support to understand experimental results. To see how my own work contributes to the bigger picture is very motivating.

The location I’m working at is…

…truly a great place to work. There are cafés and restaurants, a gym and a swimming pool on site, and we are close to the city centre and even closer to the Rhine, where we can go for a run or short walk over lunch. I share an office with my supervisor and I have a quiet workplace that allows me to focus, but where I can also ask questions if they come up. I live just a short stroll away in a flat that I share with three other Roche interns, where I feel at home and have made friends. Roche organises get-togethers with other interns, which are a fun opportunity to network and to gain an insight into different disciplines and business areas. Basel is a great city, with a rich cultural life. It’s also close to other Swiss cities, as well as Germany and France. In my free time I explore Basel and its surroundings and compensate for my desk job by working out. I practice Yoga or head off to nearby mountains in the Black Forest or Jura to free my mind.

My work helps Roche to …

…improve current practices in process development for solid dosage forms, where new molecules are transformed into medicine. Modelling and simulation tools provide an insight into formulation processes and can be a valuable tool when selecting a process that is fit for the task, or when transferring a process from the lab to production scale. With a clearer idea of what is happening from the beginning, Roche can save material and time on experiments. Models also speed up process development and allow us to supply patients with the medicines that they need in a shorter timeframe.

Roche as an employer is…

…innovative. The company’s work environment is just as progressive as its approach to developing new medicines in its core business. Some of my colleagues work part time or from home, and there are also shared office spaces and flexible working arrangements to improve work life balance and ensure that career and family are compatible. I work in a well-mixed team from different cultures and backgrounds. I believe that this is beneficial to the atmosphere, as well as to teamwork on shared goals. The work environment is challenging and rewarding, and the workplace is excellent.

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

…much more applied. In contrast to the theory-focused basic research at university, my work is results-oriented. Once tested and documented, the tools we develop help to speed up future project work and provide a deeper understanding of processes. I enjoy sharing my modelling knowledge with colleagues and laying the foundation for employing such tools in future projects. I find it highly motivating to see that my work adds value and improves process development by speeding it up, improving its sustainability and boosting our knowledge of processes.

The RiSM Programme helps me to develop because…

…I see different positions and career paths and also get a clearer picture of my individual career vision. Additionally, I have the opportunity to meet like-minded people and acquire skills that will be valuable for future positions in industry. I have had the opportunity to apply my engineering knowledge to real processes and have gained a thorough understanding of pharmaceutical production processes and drug development. Additionally, I have improved my analytical thinking skills and learned how to reduce complex processes to the essentials, both when working towards a mathematical description of happenings in the real world as well as in discussions with colleagues. Collaboration in the group has enabled me to see my work as a part of the greater whole, and I’m motivated by being able to make a contribution to my colleagues’ success and patients’ lives.

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

…embrace the opportunity. Being able to apply what I have learned at university has boosted my confidence and motivated me for my Master’s thesis next semester. The practical insights have set the background for my future work, have assured me of my strengths and interests, and have encouraged me to make a career choice. I have grown professionally and personally, and have gathered work experience that will help me in finding an entry point for my career after my studies.

Interested in gaining a similar experience as Helena? Click here for more information about the RiSM programme.

Tags: Switzerland, Career Blog, Basel, Interns