UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


MEng Student Amandeep Varia on Placement at Eli Lilly Kinsale

20 November 2017

On Thursday 16 November we held a virtual open day for prospective degree students here at The Department of Biochemical Engineering (see a recording of the event here). Qasim Rafiq was joined by current 2nd year BSc Bioprocessing of New Medicines programme, Student Karen and Communications and Outreach Coordinator Kim Morgan. Amandeep Varia (pictured above 2nd from right with other members of 2016 iGem team) joined online to talk about her placement and iGem. You can read a transcript of the interview below.

UCL: Hi Amandeep, how are you doing? Can I ask you some questions about your placement?

Amandeep: Hi Kim, I'm great thanks, yes sure,

UCL: Great. How is Ireland?

Amandeep: Ireland’s great, So - I'm currently on placement at Eli Lilly Kinsale

UCL: Yes, I was really pleased to hear that

Amandeep: Eli Lilly Kinsale, in their biotech department, working as a bioprocess engineer

UCL: How long have you been with them?

Amandeep: I've been there since June 2017 and am there for a 15 month placement. The course changed recently such that i get to complete my final MEng year whilst I am on placement so I get to graduate next year after my placement ends which is great

UCL: That works out really well. What was the process of getting the placement with Eli Lilly Kinsale?

Amandeep: There’s two representatives from Eli Lilly that fly over to UCL for 2 days to firstly give a presentation to all 3rd year students about the company and the placement, then there is an option for interested students to ask questions and talk to the representatives, then the next day, after giving out our CV's, we get interviewed at UCL

UCL: How many of you were taken on?

Amandeep: I was the only student that was taken on at Eli Lilly, but in total there are three of us that secured placements with different companies

UCL: Well done then!

Amandeep: Thank you!

UCL: Can you tell us what you're working on? What does being a bioprocess engineer involve?

Amandeep: Yes, so the great thing about the placement is that I get a wide breadth of insight to what it is like to go into industry and apply the knowledge gained from my degree. Bioprocess engineers within the biotech industry are responsible for managing the process used to make medicines.

So they have a lot of responsibility within the company to run and operate the processes, they also are responsible for fixing any problems with equipment, troubleshooting and also developing and improving the process as you go along to save time and cost

I've been involved with some projects here, that are focused on improving the current process that can have a significant cost save to the company and process, so a lot of responsibility!

UCL: Wow, that sounds really exciting!

Amandeep: But, it’s a bit different for me as I have to complete a research project with Eli Lilly, as a part of my final year, So my main project that I am working on will also form my research project

UCL: So, how does the industrial scale at ELK compare to the pilot plant here in Biochemical Engineering?

Amandeep: The pilot plant at UCL is a smaller scale to what happens in industry, It was really cool to see a large scale version of the pilot plant at ELK, because the pilot plant was a great way for me to visualise how a facility operates

UCL: That's something that I've heard from people who have worked in the industry and here. What are you interested in doing for your final year project?

Amandeep: So I'm really interested in more the process optimisation side of the biotechnology industry, so my project is all about improving the current process to save money and time. I'm currently working on improving the way the chromatography step works which is a unit operation within the purification process (downstream).

I'll be running some small scale tests on a pilot scale chromatography column starting in the next two weeks!

UCL: Sounds like a very strong fit with what you're doing at ELG. I'm just going to wind things up with a quick word about iGem..You know the current team won gold! Maintaining your high standards!

Amandeep: Yep, I am very proud! Keeping the UCL iGem legacy strong

I was involved with the igem team 2016, and we won gold out of all postgraduate team in the world, and nominated for the best therapeutic project, best composite part and best entrepreneur project.!

We went to Boston, which was exciting! And got to present out synthetic biology project which was based around increasing the healthy human lifespan through synthetic biology approaches

UCL: Thanks very much for your time and great to hear what you're up to

Amandeep: hope that was useful

UCL: Super, thanks!

Amandeep: no problem!