Job Title: Senior Quality Assurance Associate
Type of Company: Our company makes drugs for Multiple Sclerosis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and has many other pipeline drugs in clinical trials.
Education: B.S. Biology, Old Dominion University M.S, Project Management, Boston University
Previous Experience: I started in the biotech industry at Amgen (a maker of rheumatoid arthritis drugs), in the Training Department, before I moved into Quality Assurance (QA). I continued my QA career at Acambis, a vaccine company, before I moved to my current company.
Job Tasks: My key responsibility is overseeing the manufacture of one of our drugs at an outside (or "contract") manufacturing facility. This is where the drug is filled into vials that will eventually reach a patient. I am responsible for ensuring the manufacture of the drug is in compliance with FDA and other regulatory agencies' regulations and standards, and I approved the release of the drug for insertion in its final packaging (i.e. a box with instructions of the sort you commonly see when you fill a prescription).
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the interaction I have with my colleagues, and the knowledge that I am trained to have an important role in the release of a drug that helps patients who are dealing with a difficult disease.
The worst part of the job is having to oversee a fill at the contract manufacturer at 2am, since they go round the clock.
Job Tips: If you are interested in science, keep at it. Do as many internships as you can, and attend any science workshops/summer classes that allow you to see the practical application of math and science principles. If you pay your dues throughout college, you can have a lucrative career in the biosciences field.
Additional Thoughts: I never used my biology degree before someone suggested I try to work at Amgen. (I lived in Rhode Island at the time, Amgen's based in California.) If you have to pay your way through school by working retail or waitressing because the money is good, look for a mentor in the field you eventually want to be in, so you can keep in touch with the situation in the job market for your field. However, the customer service skills that you learn in any introductory job will prove valuable as you move into any career, and the better your customer service, the better employee you will be.
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