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A Productive and Meaningful Internship

16 Aug 2021

A programme that is to be completed in three years, the IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry prepares students with knowledge and skills associated with pharmaceuticals, including drug development as well as other chemistry-related activities. In Semester 6 of this programme, students undergo a 4-month internship which is essential in providing an intergration of knowledge and theory with skills and practical application in workplace settings. Internship plays an important role in preparing the students for a professional career as this industrial exposure enhances the students learning experiences through added enthusiasm, commitment and provides a lifelong learning platform. Ultimately, a work ready graduate is trained for the benefit of the industry.

30 November 2020 to 3 April 2021 – Three students from the PC218 cohort,  Chin Jia Min, Liew Sook Ling and Adrian Lai Kok Jun, underwent internship at Alpro Group Head Office & Distribution Centre in Bandar Sri Sendayan, Seremban. They relate their experience here.

Chin Jia Min

I have always wanted to be a chemist since I was young. After completing my pre-university programme, I was scrolling through the IMU webpage when I found out about this 3-year Pharmaceutical Chemistry degree programme. After going through the brochure and making some enquiries, I  decided to take up this programme and that’s when my university life begins.

My Unforgettable Memories Studying Pharmaceutical Chemistry at IMU 

Throughout my university life, what I cherish the most is when my friends and I worked together with our seniors to help in organising Pharmaceutical Chemistry Week 2019. We celebrated this Pharmaceutical Chemistry Week in conjunction with the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT) Celebration and built the world’s largest 3-D periodic table from recyclable materials. As a head of decoration, I learned the importance of teamwork as it is impossible to have this achievement without help from my friends. It was really fun and fulfilling.

In fact, there is always ups and downs, especially when it comes to academics. I remembered there was once where we learned reaction mechanisms for the first time and were overwhelmed, however, with the extensive knowledge the lecturer possessed, she was able to explain it well and ensure we understood. She also kept giving encouragement to us.

Adrian Lai Kok Jun

At the age of 16, I discovered my passion for chemistry. After graduating from high school and college, my passion towards chemistry is still strong. I started to search for courses which utilises chemistry as its major element in every university. Finally, I came across IMU which offers the  Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme. After understanding the details behind this course, it sparked up my passion even more, because there are many chemistry-related components for me to learn. Therefore, it did not take me long to sign up for this course. After going through the 3 years of learning experience in the IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme, I feel very grateful with the knowledge that I have gained, the relationships that I built, and the lecturers I met. I am glad that I signed up for this course. There is not a thing that I dislike about in this course. I am extremely thankful to IMU for being one of the few universities in Malaysia to offer this course.

Liew Sook Ling

My passion in chemistry and healthcare drove me to choose the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme at IMU, which was a right decision I made and never regret. It is a chemistry-centred course that provides a diverse career pathway to its students. Since young, I always wanted to be a scientist but wasn’t sure in which direction I should proceed until I found out about Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme which is only offered in IMU. I was excited yet eager to learn more in this programme.

Laboratory experiments and hands-on learning during my pre-university studies had given me extra enhancement in skills and knowledge which provide me with the ability of relating chemistry to real life. However, it is still not enough for me. My enthusiasm and inquisitiveness in Chemistry urged me to pursue more, this was why I chose BSc (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, in order to be a qualified and professional chemist. Throughout the programme, it wasn’t only about just improving my technical skills and knowledge in chemistry but also soft skills such as communication skills, confidence and teamwork as well as the integrity as a healthcare professional.

During the internship, one of the activities that the students were involved in is compounding. In pharmacy, compounding is the process of combining, mixing or altering ingredients to create a medication tailored to the needs of an individual. At community pharmacies, compounding medications are typically engaged for oral or topical application, especially to avoid a non-active ingredient that the patient is allergic to, or to provide an exact dose that isn’t commercially available.

Our Learning Experience
Chin Jia Min Although I am not familiar with it, the skills required when performing compounding have been taught in the pharmaceutics module. Hence, I was able to perform it well. Besides compounding, my supervisor has taught me a lot. There was a time when I had difficulties in operating an equipment for mixing medicated cream. She guided me step by step and explained to me what precautions are needed. She also supported me mentally, with her advice and guidance, I am more confident about what I am responsible for.
Liew Sook Ling During the four months of internship in Alpro, part of my responsibilities was to perform compounding for melatonin capsules. Even though it was a small scale of production, standard operation procedures (SOP) have to be strictly followed as well. I applied the knowledge and hands-on skills I learnt in my course on melatonin compounding such as weighing, geometric mixing, grinding, filling, compression of capsules, final packaging and labelling. Not only that, but I was also exposed to make betamethasone valerate cream using Gako Unguator, which was a new to me. By using Gako Unguator, preparation of cream is faster, mixing is more even and contaminations or air intakes are minimised.

I could never forget my experience in Alpro because throughout the four months, what has impacted me the most was the Alproeans’ vow, which is to fight for a healthy and vibrant world, provide professional service and help anyone striving for a better life. It makes me realise that we all could make a change for a better community by providing the best, especially as a healthcare provider. The internship provided different experiences for me, I gained a lot of priceless and meaningful skills which would be helpful in my future career. In the future, I would like to involved in the pharmaceutical industries, mainly research and development or analytical department where I am always passionate and wanted to be.

Adrian Lai Kok Jun During the internship, I was given the opportunity to perform compounding, which is a preparation of a custom formulation of a medication to fit a unique need of a patient that cannot be met with commercially available products. The drug that I helped in compounding was melatonin. During compounding, the two main steps were grinding the powder using mortar and pestle, and encapsulation of the drug. As a Pharmaceutical Chemistry student, I have been exposed to the fundamental knowledge of these steps at some of the hands-on practicals especially through learning in Pharmaceutics modules in IMU. This increased my work efficiency during the training.

The students were also involved in “Dream and Shine Bright”, a sub-project under the main project, named “The Growing Stars”, handled by Alpro Foundation. The main purpose of this project was to raise funds, to help children in-need receive basic education.

“The Growing Stars” project had supported a total of 53 students since it started. Via this sub-project, it is aimed to support a total of 100 students this year. To this end, we managed to sell a total of 8000 t-shirts, gaining at least a profit of RM100,000. The profit gained allowed us to support more than 100 students this year.

“Dream and Shine Bright” Project
Chin Jia Min Personally, the most challenging part was thinking of ideas on how to create public awareness towards this campaign and raise enough funds to support 50 school children. After taking into consideration the advice given by Alpro colleagues and discussions among ourselves, we decided to create videos and postings for this campaign. With the help and support from customers, Alpro colleagues and my team, we managed to raise more than RM80,000.

I am glad that I can participated in such a meaningful campaign and have gained more than I expected – a sense of accomplishment. I have no doubt that I have improved myself a lot, whether be it planning skills, communication skills and self-esteem.

Liew Sook Ling In Alpro, I was given the opportunity to manage a fundraising project. Throughout this project, I learnt new skills such as promoting a product as a salesperson, financial management, content creation, video shooting and video editing as well as improved in project management, communication and leadership skills.

I could still remember that one of the challenging tasks, I would say the most challenging task, was to make sure that the physical inventory (t-shirts) always tallies with the record in the system after each fulfilment. Since majority of our work were based on manual calculation and records, there were many occasions where it does not tally, either having extra or less t-shirts, when I crosschecked with my team members who were responsible for fulfilment and dispatching. Fortunately, problems were solved as I took initiative to seek the advice of my colleague who is more experienced as a procurement executive.

Adrian Lai Kok Jun My role in this project was as the co-leader. After a discussion with the CEO of Alpro Foundation regarding methods to raise funds, we decided to sell t-shirts with designs of our own. We started to lay out the entire plan, from designing, materials sourcing, negotiations with supplier, marketing, promoting, to final sales. All of these had to be executed in a span of 2 months. Thanks to the soft skills that I picked up in IMU, the management of the project especially negotiation and interaction with suppliers went smoothly, all of which were under my prerogative.

Our Advice to Students

“As I come to the end of my bachelor’s degree, I am aware that a new chapter of my life begins. I am looking forward to working as a chemist in a pharmaceutical company. To all my juniors, I wish you all the best and never give up. Do not be afraid of doing things that you are not familiar with, we always learn throughout the process” – Chin Jia Min

“My advice to the juniors would be, make sure to have a good basic knowledge of the company’s background that you are interested in performing your internship. Besides that, do not reject any single opportunity to learn, anything you do during the internship will be a part of your learning experience, which might be useful in the future. Moreover, do not step back from challenges, by overcoming them, you will grow as a person. Finally, networking is very important, be more proactive, and build a friendly relationship with your colleagues.” – Adrian Lai Kok Jun

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