Stephanie Rurkowski is currently an Associate Scientist in the Pilot Lab, Global MSAT, at Sanofi Genzyme in Framingham, Massachusetts. In this role, Stephanie works in the laboratory, growing cells for biotech products on the scale from 2L bioreactors up to 500L bioreactors.
“I work in the Pilot Lab, so I help with transitioning processes from small- to manufacturing-scale and improving manufacturing processes to get our drugs out to patients more efficiently,” she explains.
Stephanie earned her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and then enrolled in the Purdue University Chemical Engineering Professional Master’s Program to expand her knowledge of the chemical engineering field. “I knew that Purdue had a great engineering program, and earning my degree in the Chemical Engineering Professional Master’s Program would be a way to successfully transition from biochemistry to chemical engineering,” recalls Stephanie.
Being able to complete the program and quickly make an impact as a chemical engineering was also appealing to Stephanie. “I was attracted to the length of the program. I was able to graduate with my Master’s and enter the workforce in just a year and a half.”
For Stephanie, a typical day includes spending time in the lab, sampling bioreactors, feeding the cells, maintaining equipment, and assisting in the development process for the Sanofi Genzyme large scale disk centrifuge. “I have really enjoyed the continuous learning,” says Stephanie. “Every day I learn something new; I’m exposed to multiple different process and equipment. I also enjoy the problem-solving skills involved when scaling from 2L bioreactors up to 10,000L bioreactors, and understanding how different factors affect the cell growth, and in turn, the protein production.” She enjoys knowing that because Sanofi Genzyme produces orphan drugs, her daily work has an impact on improving the lives of patients with rare diseases.
Stephanie chose to study chemical engineering because of her goal in securing a process development position within a biotech company, and she has been able to reach that goal with her Purdue Chemical Engineering graduate degree. “My internship experiences were valuable since they gave me an opportunity to experience different industries as well as different aspects of the industry. I was able to clearly discern how I wanted to begin my career. I am looking forward to taking on more leadership roles in the future.”
Stephanie says the Professional Master’s courses were designed to include valuable concepts and advanced learning. “I regularly use tools from Professor John Morgan’s Bioprocess Engineering course; in fact, I keep the textbook on my desk at work! When I am upscaling processes, there are numerous calculations that need to be maintained successfully, kLa/ power number being the most important. Dr. Morgan’s course gave me a thorough understanding of things which are relevant to my daily job.”
As a recent graduate, Stephanie advises other Purdue Chemical Engineering Professional Master’s students to look for opportunities to expand their knowledge and experiences. “Be willing to move out of your comfort zone; that’s where you will see your greatest growth. Jumping right into chemical engineering was not easy, but it led me to a job that I enjoy going to every day.” Stephanie advises, “Constantly challenge yourself and you will be surprised at what you can achieve with a little hard work and determination!”