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My Internship Experience: Insights into Working in a Pharmaceutical Industry

27 Aug 2021

After I had graduated from high school, I did not have the faintest idea on which degree course to pursue, until I was introduced to the Pharmaceutical Chemistry degree programme offered in IMU. The modules and concepts delivered in this programme stimulated my interest in developing a career path in the pharmaceutical industry. Throughout the course, I had learnt and acquired vast knowledge of science through different learning activities as well as hands-on skills through practical sessions. These fundamental knowledge and skills had equipped me to perform well and adapt quickly during my internship.

As part of IMU’s Pharmaceutical Chemistry degree programme, I was given the opportunity to undergo my internship at YSP Industries (M) Sdn Bhd for 4 months from 30 November 2020 to 3 April 2021. I was attached to the Analytical Research Section of the Research and Development (R&D) Department where my job scope was to perform chemical testing on new products and new raw materials as an R&D Analyst.

Jia Hui (left) at one of the events for Pharmaceutical Week

During the first few weeks of the internship, I had to undergo several basic technical skill trainings prior to working in the analytical research laboratory. I was also briefed on the company’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and instrumental operation by my supervisor before carrying out the tasks assigned to me. The analytical instruments that I frequently use during routine chemical testing include high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), UV-Vis spectrophotometer, dissolution tester and disintegration tester.

These instruments are used to separate, identify or quantify each component in a drug formulation. Fortunately, I was exposed to the principles and basic hands-on skills of these instruments in the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme and I am thrilled to have opportunity to further explore these instruments.

Throughout the process of operating these analytical instruments, I have improved and picked up new technical skills. For instance, I was able to apply the hands-on skills learnt during the UV-Vis spectrophotometer practicals conducted at IMU to the spectroscopic identification test that was assigned to me by my supervisor.

Identification test is important to ensure the appropriate drug and ingredients are used in a formulation. I was also able to quickly pick up the operational skills when operating both dissolution and disintegration testers on drug tablets as I was exposed to the operation of these instruments during practicals in the Pharmaceutics module. The Pharmaceutical Analysis modules were especially helpful in preparing me to carry out my tasks well.

Apart from technical skills, my soft skills such as communication skills and teamwork were greatly enhanced as a result of working with people from different backgrounds. Furthermore, critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills were of utmost importance whenever any issues arose during the operation of HPLC. I had the opportunity to learn how to troubleshoot HPLC related issues by adjusting different parameters such as column type, flow rate, oven temperature, mobile phase ratio, mobile phase system and HPLC detector. These are valuable experiential learning experiences which I gained through internship.

One of My Biggest Challenges
One of the biggest challenges that I had faced during my internship is none other than my inexperience in the operation of HPLC. It was my first time operating HPLC and the entire testing process from fitting in the column, achieving the system suitability, preparing samples to processing the results, was overwhelming to me. There were times where I was unable to achieve the system suitability and I also had a hard time fitting in the column at first. I was discouraged by this, however, my supervisor and colleagues were always there to patiently teach and guide me whenever I faced any difficulties during the operation process. Their help and advice helped me to get back on my feet and I gradually gained confidence when performing chemical testings that involve the use of HPLC.

The positive feedback regarding my performance and interpersonal skills given by my supervisor and the Head of Department really motivated me to perform better in terms of technical operations.

I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to undergo my onsite internship at YSP Industries (M) Sdn Bhd in the midst of the pandemic as I had learnt a lot and gained invaluable knowledge and skills through this internship experience.

All in all, this internship experience was an eye-opening experience and it has also provided me with an insight on what it is like to work in the pharmaceutical industry.

My Advice for Juniors who are Preparing for their Internship
Never hesitate to seek help whenever you are facing any difficulties.
Be ready to take up challenges and embrace uncertainties faced in the workplace.

In the future, I would like to continue to pursue a career in analytical research as I enjoy working in that field. If the opportunity arises, I would like to explore and gain working experience in quality assurance or regulatory affairs.

Written by Chia Jia Hui, IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Student

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