Chem Students Conclude Internships

By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

August 18, 2014 – Searching for the perfect polymer is not everyone’s cup of Tetrafluoroethylene, but for some chemistry students, a summer internship program at a major Pitt County chemical manufacturing plant was right up their alloy.

A group of 22 exceptionally talented and highly motivated students, including several from East Carolina University and Pitt Community College, concluded internships on Wednesday that began on June 3 at Patheon in Greenville. They presented to their hosts and teachers summaries of their experiences and accomplishments.

Patheon, on U.S. 264 in Greenville, is the world’s leading provider of drug development and manufacturing services to global pharmaceutical, biotechnology and specialty pharmaceutical companies. A merger in March with DSM Pharmaceuticals valued at $2.65 billion created a new company that expanded Durham-based Patheon into Greenville.

Eric Smith, 20, a rising junior chemistry major at ECU, said he entered the program to gain practical experience and explore some future career options.

“I wanted to see if pharmaceuticals is something I’d enjoy in the future,” Smith said. “Here, I got to see testing methods and observe how much care the engineers here take to preserve the pristine quality of products that go to the market.”

Smith learned the difference between an academic environment and the practical world, he said.

“ECU gave me the basic building blocks and some techniques, but working at Patheon is very different,” he said. “The pace is faster, but the people in the lab were very helpful.”

Rebecca Nickle, 21, a rising ECU senior with Kappa Delta sorority, is pursuing degrees in biology and chemistry.

“I was always just naturally good at chemistry and had an amazing high school teacher who helped me focus in on organic chemistry,” Nickle said. “I enjoy learning about carbon-based things and would like to do research in medicine that includes pharmaceuticals.”

Smith and Nickle said their internships mean more than a good learning experience.

“The wide practical experience in the real pharmaceutical world that I got here is something that other people might not get,” Nickle said. “Less than a .5 percent yield in the classroom is very good, but it isn’t Patheon good. Learning about the kind of precision they need in the real world gives me a head start on the others — and I loved what I did here.”

Wayne Washington, a human resources official for Patheon and former intern, talked about what it takes to be accepted into Patheon’s internship program.

“Each intern has to meet classroom grade-point standards and provide references with his or her application,” Washington said. “They also must demonstrate a specific project designated to their majors that is applicable to their future pursuits. Eric and Rebecca both fit the Patheon standards for participation in our internship program, and both were excellent performers.”

Toni Sweeney, North American vice president of human resources for Patheon, said the company’s Greenville site is a great example of Patheon’s commitment to student development through its undergraduate, internship and cooperative programs. She said the programs are now being expanded to the graduate level.

“I was pleased to see the kind of historical significance that our partnerships with the schools, community and especially the students has produced,” Sweeney said. “We look at the kind of scientific and technical talent that is emerging from these schools and feeding our future, and the future is bright. We’re really delighted to have Patheon joining this community.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.