Mariana O. Diniz, University of Limerick, supervised by Prof. Sarah Hudson, Prof. Åke Rasmuson, and Dr. Michael Svärd, finished an industry placement with APC Ltd. in Cherry Wood, Dublin, Ireland. Read her experiences of being part of SSPC’s PhD Industry Placement programme.
I found the placement a very valuable experience as I had the opportunity to attend a variety of trainings, from soft skills to hard skills (e.g. critical conversation, good practices of documentation, best safety practices, crystallisation using Mettler Toledo and Technobis equipment, solubility prediction using COSMOTherm and Dynochem software). I shadowed many people who contributed towards learning different techniques and different ways to approach problems, which increased my knowledge and elucidated how I can apply the Ph.D. skills in an industrial setting.
Most projects in APC are focused on crystallization, solubility, and polymorphism control, which is what I was investigating in my PhD research as well. This superposition of topics allowed me to dive deeper into the concepts and variables critical for reaching the goals of each project. Moreover, it highlighted the industrial applicability of my research and increased my passion for it.
I was extremely happy when I received the call from Charlie Dolan inviting me to take a position as PhD intern during the summer. APC is a company that has been expanding significantly in the last couple of years, and I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to be challenged and grow as a scientist and professional. The culture of open and transparent communication inside the company enables insightful conversations about science and career during lunch breaks or the traditional Wednesday cake. Thus, allowing me to expand my professional network and to find good mentors.
Through this experience I was able to see how SSPC is aligned with what is required by the pharmaceutical industry, as many APC employees were former SSPC researchers. Most importantly, it helped me realize the value and applicability of crystallization studies for pharmaceutical processes, since most of APC’s projects for various clients around the world focus on this subject.
I would strongly encourage all PhD students to take advantage of this opportunity to be integrated in the industrial environment. This will help them to better understand their career goals and which PhD skills are more crucial and require further development in the next stages of their career.
Solubility is one of the most important parameters in crystallisation and is critical for pharmaceutical industry in general. The training I received in the COSMO and Dynochem softwares for solubility predictions were helpful not only for my own project, to predict solubility of different APIs in a variety of organic solvents. Furthermore, I now have the experience and the capability to teach these tools to other researchers.
Scaling-up processes from laboratory batch scale to industrial production scale is a relevant challenge and an exercise that needs to be made, to test the applicability of the process being developed in the industry context. I learned how to use the Dynochem software for evaluate the feasibility of scaling-up which is of particular interest for one chapter of my thesis (“Effect of volume in the nucleation kinetics of griseofulvin in methanol”) and will be an advantageous skill to have in my CV.
The placement has also motivated me to become more involved in the entrepreneurship field. APC was created in 2011 inside the University College Dublin labs by Dr Mark Barrett together with his supervisor Prof. Brian Glennon. The company has hundreds of employees and many plans to expand for new business areas, including a facility to produce vaccines in large scale. This is a history that can be used as inspiration to develop my own ideas and invest it time in entrepreneurial competitions and formation. This adds to the SSPC incentives, as the SSPC early career summit initiative.
As previously mentioned, I believe that this experience will add value to my CV, increasing my employability after completion of my PhD. Overall, after this internship I feel that I’ve grown in a professional and personal level, particularly more confident regarding my soft and hard skills.