Taking part in the student exploratory workshop organised by IMU back in 2016 had given me a glimpse of the different programmes offered at the University. It was at this workshop when the Pharmaceutical Chemistry course which has a combination of Pharmacy and Chemistry caught my attention. My strong interest in chemistry and aspiration of pursuing a pharmacy degree was what encouraged me to take up this programme which I believed would allow me to be exposed to the best of both worlds.
Field Trip to Nuclear Agency
IMU being a leader in health sciences academics and there were only a few universities that offered the Pharmaceutical Chemistry course back when I was doing my research for an ideal university. This was the reason I chose to study at this university.However, my anticipation of university life experience was halted when the pandemic struck back in 2020, causing “study from home” to become a new normal. Nevertheless, the moments spent during practical sessions with my course mates were invaluable and the most memorable moments of my university life so far.
In the 6th semester of this programme, students are required to carry out a 4-month internship of which I was fortunate to be attached to Novartis. The modules that we have studied in this programme has undeniably played its fair share in contributing to my ability in adapting to my internship placement. It’s the knowledge gained especially through the pharmaceutical analysis and medicinal chemistry modules that enabled me to grasp a quicker understanding when dealing with tasks during my placement.
Some tasks in which the pharmaceutical analysis module has helped me was during the extraction of information from CoA’s as well as when providing CoA’s for release or tender purposes. As for the medicinal chemistry module, it enabled me to familiarize myself better when some of the drug names were mentioned. Besides that, the problem-based learning (PBL) sessions and presentations had also equipped me well when it came to my problem-solving and communication skills.
Throughout my internship, the one process of which I was strongly involved in was the batch release process. A batch release process is a certification typically carried out for a pharmaceutical by an authorized person before the product can be released to the market for sales. Through this process, I’ve not only been able to understand better and apply whatever knowledge that has been taught in the previous semesters but also be exposed to document handling. Apart from that, having to liaise with my colleagues, Novartis’ clients and customers helped me to not only further hone my communication skills but also build on my confidence especially when trying to convey my thoughts and opinions.
However, things aren’t always smooth sailing and the main challenge of which I encountered during internship was because due to Novartis’ implementation of a concept known as CwR where employees can choose how, when and where they worked best, I was unable to meet my colleagues often. How I dealt with this was that I had to take the initiative to touch base with them and try to go into office as often as I could. Besides that, given the fact that Novartis is a multinational company, I had to work with employees from different countries with different time zones, hence a lot of proactive follow ups had to be done from my end.
A meaningful event of which I had the opportunity to attend during my internship was the team dinner organised to recognize the achievements for the first half of the year. After knowing how many lives Novartis’ products had saved thus far, I was very much inspired as this made me realize how Novartis always stays true to their mission statement which is to discover new ways to improve and extend people’s lives.
As for some insights of which I’d like to share with my juniors who are thinking on pursuing a non-lab-based internship would be “Embrace each task with willingness to learn and grow. After all, change is the only constant in life so let’s make it a positive one”.
To sum up, if I was asked if pursuing a non-lab-based internship had ever crossed my mind previously, the answer would probably have been a “no”. This is because, I’ve always found joy when carrying out experiments in the laboratory. However, I’m glad that I decided to take that leap of faith to discover something different and proud to say that after being given the opportunity to perform my internship with Novartis’ quality department, my perspectives have changed, and non-lab-based jobs would be in my consideration for the near future. This experience that Novartis has provided me with was an eye-opening one for which I will forever be thankful for.
Written by Kimberly Tan