Meet Ian!

Ian Gaines Flynn, M.S, Chemical Engineering, December 2022

Looking back at my experience as a Professional Master’s Program (PMP) student in Chemical Engineering at Purdue University, I can confidently say that it has been a journey of incredible growth and transformation. I always wanted to combine my passion for engineering with chemistry, and the PMP program provided the perfect opportunity to explore both areas.

Transitioning from a degree in chemistry to chemical engineering was a decision driven by my desire to work in the chemical or pharmaceutical industry. I had research experience in an inorganic chemistry lab during my undergrad, but I realized I wanted a more industry-focused career path with potential for growth. Chemical engineering seemed like the perfect fit, and I chose Purdue due to its excellent program and proximity to my home.

One of the top defining moments of my grad school experience was undoubtedly my Capstone project with LyoHUB. With a background in chemical engineering and a keen interest in the pharmaceutical industry, this project aligned perfectly with my academic goals. The project focused on testing a new tool, developed by AbbVie and Pfizer, to ascertain whether glass vials would break during freeze-drying.

Undertaking this project was driven by my curiosity and desire to delve deeper into freeze drying, a process commonly known as lyophilization. Throughout my education, it was often mentioned that freeze drying was inefficient but crucial for the pharmaceutical sector. This contradiction intrigued me, and I wanted to explore this area further, even if it was often disregarded by others. 

The goal of my project was to test a novel tool, a strain gauge, for applications in vial breakage and detection of thermal events. Vial breakage during the lyophilization process can cause many issues such as:  loss of product, costly and possibly hazardous cleaning by operators, and loss of pressure control. 

As with any project, we encountered several challenges along the way. The use of a new tool meant that we were unsure of its capabilities, leading to a constantly evolving trajectory for the project. Initially, we planned to follow previous studies conducted by the same group of companies involved in prior capstone projects. However, as we discovered the distinct capabilities of the new tool, our project's direction changed significantly.

Despite these challenges, we achieved several significant milestones during the project's development. One personal noteworthy accomplishment was the progress made towards writing a research paper based on the project. It holds great personal importance to me and is a testament to the impact and relevance of the work we conducted.

Throughout the project, I worked closely with a team of mentors who provided invaluable guidance. Dr. Alina Alexeenko, and Dr. Andrew Strongrich at Purdue, Dr. Serguei Tchessalov and Dr. Bakul Bhatnagar from Pfizer, and Dr. Evgenyi Shalaev from Abbvie played instrumental roles in shaping the project and teaching me about the mechanical aspects and the intricacies of lyophilization. Their expertise and support were crucial in my development as a researcher.

Among the classes I took, “Transport Phenomena” stood out as the most challenging and rewarding. Heat and mass transfer, as well as fluid dynamics, were particularly relevant to my current work in freeze drying. The hard work put into this course truly paid off and has been applicable to my capstone project.

My journey as a PMP graduate in Chemical Engineering has been filled with challenges, learning experiences, and significant personal growth. My future goal is to be involved in the development of pharmaceutical drugs and the concentration that I pursued in Pharmaceutical Engineering during the program aligns perfectly with this aspiration.

For current students or those considering joining the PMP program, I recommend connecting with mentors and expanding your network. Talking with people in the industry will not only provide valuable insights but also open doors to potential opportunities. I am grateful for the opportunities and support I received at Purdue and am excited to embrace the future with confidence and determination.