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Gaining Experience Through Experiential Learning at Kotra Pharma (M) Sdn Bhd Quality Control Department

14 Sep 2023

A group of 4 students from the PC220 cohort seized the opportunity to embark on a 4-month internship with Kotra Pharma (M) Sdn Bhd, commencing on November 14, 2022, and concluding on March 15, 2023. For these students, joining the IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme in 2020 had introduced them to various learning approaches. However, the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant shift towards online learning for most educational activities. Nonetheless, these students, particularly as they entered their third year of study, continued to have opportunities for practical, hands-on learning in laboratories, field visits, and internships.


The enthusiasm for hands-on learning remained high as Henry Wong Wai Sam, Tay Chia Pao, Teoh Kah Yee, and Lee Yen Mae readily accepted the internship opportunity at Kotra Pharm (M) Sdn Bhd. These students recognised the significance of internships in preparing them for their future professional careers.


They were fortunate to undertake their training at Kotra Pharma (M) Sdn Bhd, a pharmaceutical company located in Malacca, Malaysia. This company is involved in various facets of the pharmaceutical industry, encompassing research, development, manufacturing, and the marketing of pharmaceutical products. They produce both prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs for domestic and international markets, catering to customers in more than 40 countries across the globe.


Here, the students (Henry Wong Wai Sam and Tay Chia Pao) relate their experience at the Quality Control Department.

Quality Control Department

Henry Wong Wai Sam and Tay Chia Pao were attached to Quality Control (QC) Department at Kotra Pharma.  Before entering the laboratory, they were briefed by the respective supervisors about the job scope, guidelines, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and precautionary steps taken in the laboratory.


As QC intern, they were tasked to assist the laboratory technician in doing several quality tests on finished products such as physical tests (hardness, viscosity, pH, dissolution test) and assay of content using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) instrument. Besides, there was also documentation work such as compiling and reviewing reports to produce the Certificate of Analysis (COA) of a product.


During internship, they were also exposed to Good Documentation Practices (GDocP) in which correction pen or liquid pen are forbidden and every weight print is pasted in the report as evidence. This is to prevent any protocol violations and malpractice. This is a real learning process for both students in being ethical at the workplace and follow the SOPs.


During my internship at Kotra Pharma (M) Sdn Bhd, I managed to operate different types of analytical instruments such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Karl Fischer titrator, Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). As a Pharmaceutical Chemistry student, I have been exposed to the fundamental knowledge of most of these analytical instruments in the Pharmaceutical Analysis module. Besides, the practical session of this module also allowed us to have a hands-on experience with these instruments before our internship. This has enabled me to cope with the work during the internship training.


Henry Wong Wai Sam

The first challenge I faced in the workplace was the language barrier because almost all the analysts are Malays, while I have low Malay proficiency. Understanding my job scope was not the problem, but connecting with them as friends was still an obstacle.


I forced myself to learn more and improve my vocabulary by talking to them. Even though they wanted to speak to me in English, I insisted on communicating with them using Malay. Somehow my attitude and etiquette have become the reason we have a strong bond at the end of the internship.

Second row, second from left: Henry Wong Wai Sam on his last day of internship in Kotra Pharma QC lab.

Immature lab skills become my biggest fear at the beginning of my internship. The work pace of a big pharma company should be fast with precise accuracy. Therefore, we cannot even afford a single mistake sometimes.


The first two weeks were terrifying because I might make a mistake anytime and delay their progress since my skill was not good enough to conduct the testing. I am always grateful for the lab technicians’ patience and enthusiasm, which allowed me to gain all those great skills quickly.

Tay Chia Pao

There are some challenges that I faced during my internship. Firstly, time management is important in doing testing as there were multiple tests required for a single product and there were many pending products for testing. Hence, we always compete with time and arrange time to complete them before the deadline.


Secondly, the challenge that I met was the language barrier. Since most staff working in Kotra Pharma are Malays, hence most of the time they communicate in Malay which made me anxious as my Malay is not fluent. Fortunately, all the staff are nice and friendly, they are willing to approach me and start a conversation. This makes me more comfortable when communicating with them.


Henry Wong Wai Sam

Problem-solving skills are the most valuable thing I learned during my internship. It is normal to face various problems when conducting a test or analysing the results, especially HPLC. The problem could be coming from any compartment of the HPLC system (e.g., column, head pump, tubing, etc.). Hence, an analyst should be sensitive to the conditions of the HPLC system while running an assay, able to spot the problem and troubleshoot immediately. I learned a lot about HPLC throughout my internship at Kotra Pharma, as they gave me a lot of trust in handling the system. Notably, the pharmaceutical analysis modules also prepared us with some fundamental knowledge of HPLC, which assisted me in getting started quickly.


This internship learning experience deeply moved me. Not only because of the skills and knowledge I learned but the people I met in the company and the mutual memories we have created had truly impacted me. Although I had cold feet when I decided to complete my internship in Melaka, the experience and memories I gained in this journey had left me with no regrets. Risks could be awful, but the unknown which awaited you might bring you unexpected surprises.

Tay Chia Pao

From my internship, I have learnt some knowledge on the workflow and management of the pharma industry, improved my lab skills and techniques and enhanced my communications and time management skills.


Among these, the most important lesson I’ve learned is the value of cultivating good personal qualities, such as curiosity. People are generally more willing to teach those who are eager to learn and ask questions.

Besides, being attentive during work is a must for a QC analyst as a careless mistake could cause failure in testing although the product was in good condition.


Overall, the four-month internship is a very meaningful and beneficial experience for me to explore how real working life is.

I am grateful for this huge amount of knowledge that has been provided to me with the opportunity of meeting great people from industry.

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