Unique Journey to a Career in Biotech
Genesis Correa grew up in a small town in the southeastern part of Puerto Rico named Patillas. While she was interested in science from a young age, she could never really see a professional path for herself in the sciences. In high school, her outlook would change due to a single chemistry teacher.
Now a chemical engineer in the Emerging Talent Rotational Program at Amgen in Puerto Rico, Correa spoke with ABE about her path and the opportunities she’s had along the way.
How did your chemistry teacher impact you?
Before high school, I had in mind to be an archeologist and then a veterinarian, but when I got to high school, everything changed. I was taking the chemistry class, and the professor was so excited and made the class so interesting that my eagerness to learn more about this field increased. This professor was part of the American Chemistry Society, and he encouraged me to apply to a scholarship offered by this association specifically for minority students. I was very honored to receive this scholarship that helped me to continue my studies in a field related to chemistry.
What happened after high school?
I applied to the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey Campus, and I was accepted to the bachelor’s in science program, specifically in chemistry. I loved and enjoyed every class, but then I realized my passion was chemical engineering. Therefore, in my second year of college, I transferred to the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, where I completed my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.
How did you end up at Amgen?
My path to Amgen started in college, where I did several research projects related to pharmaceutical engineering. I also completed a minor in pharmaceutical engineering and then did an internship at Purdue University in Indiana to investigate the production of uniform particle size distribution polymers to be used in a continuous crystallization for pharmaceutical applications.
While I was doing my internship at Purdue, I applied to a position at Amgen and was accepted. This undergraduate experience at Amgen gave me valuable tools and opportunities for my development. I was a process engineer providing support to manufacturing and packaging areas of the small-molecule solid dosage facility. I also got the opportunity to collaborate with the Process Development Team, including working on a drug filling and approval process submitted to the FDA.
After completing this undergraduate experience, I knew that I wanted to return to Amgen as a full-time employee to share the mission of serving our patients. I returned to college to finish my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, and then I applied to a rotational program at Amgen, where I am now.
What has the rotational program been like?
This program is for graduated students from college with 2 years of experience or less, where they are exposed to three areas of the business (manufacturing, quality, and supply chain) in 2 years. This is a one-of-a-kind experience, and I wanted to be part of it. During the interviews, there were very well-prepared colleagues, but all the experiences I acquired during my years in college gave the tools needed to be selected for this program. Now, I am finishing my third rotation at Amgen, and I would have never imagined all the knowledge and experiences I acquired during these 2 years.
What do you like the most about your current position and the program?
What I like about this position is the exposure I have to all the manufacturing areas in such a short time. I have had the opportunity to understand the manufacturing operations in the end-to-end process—the planning, purchasing, and receiving of materials; manufacturing of the bulk drug product; and the formulation, filling, and packaging of the final drug product to then be delivered to the desired destination.
It’s been wonderful to learn from great leaders. In addition, I can participate in various forums for my professional development, such as project management certification, and apply this knowledge in the areas where I work to help them in their continuous improvement process.
I can also participate and lead activities on site and in the community to help different sectors. An example was the activity “Unleash Your Heart: Let’s Help Save a Sato,” where we collected food and other items to help a fine-free association that helps abandoned cats and dogs in Puerto Rico. Finally, I also get to participate in conferences and job fairs where I share my experience, give advice, and serve as a role model for other students.
Is there anything you wish you had known about in high school to better prepare you for this career or about the biotech industry in general?
I wish I had known about the roles and responsibilities of a professional working in the biotechnology industry, as well as about other opportunities to develop and strengthen my professional and technical skills. Therefore, I recommend that students read, ask for, and seek out information and mentoring because there are many programs and opportunities that are sponsored by the biopharmaceutical industry for students to learn of the things that we do and what careers can they pursue to be part of this industry.
What do you think is the future of the field you are in? What trends do you see?
I think the future of our industry will be moving into incorporating more computer science in our processes to predict and prevent situations in our manufacturing and logistics operations. Machine learning, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence are some of the examples that could be key improvements in this industry to be more reliable, efficient, and agile to serve our patients.
What other advice do you have for students?
Be bold, ask everything, always keep that desire to learn more, and don’t feel afraid of change.