Every Bioengineering student at Pitt student has heard our fearless leader’s, Dr. Jack Patzer, famous mantra “Co-op is the single greatest experience you can have as an undergraduate.” To many, this phrase was taken as a law which led to an overwhelming amount of aspiring bioengineers at the co-op fair during the fall of 2014, the start of my sophomore year. These 150 sophomore bioengineers, including myself, strolled into the co-op fair with high hopes and dreams of obtaining one of only 10 co-op positions available for the spring semester. We were all competing for these jobs with the other BioE juniors and seniors that were still searching for their “big break”. Leaving the co-op fair feeling defeated and without a scheduled interview with a company, I started to think, “Maybe I don’t need a co-op to make the most out of my undergraduate career?” I then started searching for an internship for the summer of 2015.
Growing up, many of you were probably told something along the lines of, “it’s all in who you know” – I can tell you whole-heartedly that those six words are absolutely TRUE. My father, cousin and a couple family friends work for the pharmaceuticals company, Bayer Healthcare. I talked with my father about my search for internships available in the summer and he asked me to send him my resume so that he could pass it along to his co-workers that may be looking to hire interns. Sure enough, the Sunday before school started in the spring semester, I received a phone call which turned into an hour and a half phone interview. The result: I was hired for the summer due to start at the beginning of May.
My internship experience at Bayer Healthcare was amazing and if I could relive last summer, I would. My intern group was comprised of three mechanical engineers (1 Penn State, 1 Villanova, and 1 Clarion), one plastics engineer (Penn State Behrend), one industrial engineer (Penn State) and myself (a lonely bioengineer from Pitt). As an aside: I’ve learned many things from my time at Bayer, but the most prominent conclusion I made was that the Pitt-Penn State rivalry is STILL THERE. I was ridiculed by my Penn State co-workers, the interns and full-time employees, for the whole four months (in a joking manner, of course…they are nice people, I promise). I mainly worked as a Quality Intern spending most of my time editing documents to parallel FDA standards. Other projects I worked on assessed biostability in the cleanroom (sterile) environment at the plant and placed chemical approval processes so we can pass internal audits. Some days went by quickly, others very, very slow. During those slow days, I would head over to my father’s office and ask him to give me something to do. He introduced me to someone that grew into my mentor as the summer went on, Jessica. She worked in the supply chain group and asked me to help her out with an analysis on the product sales from every country imaginable. I learned a ton of valuable excel skills and shortcuts that I actually was able to apply to my research position this past fall.
Although I may not have obtained my internship the way that many others would, my advice would be to go to the company’s website that you are interested in and send an email to their Human Resources department. They will email you back and give you information on your next step. Also, network with your classmates because they can give your resume to their supervisors and put in a good word. Moral of the story, be nice to that kid that sits next to you in every class because being friends with them could help you in the long run.
Mikayla Ferchaw is a junior bioengineering major pursuing an industrial engineering minor and the product realization certificate. Her time with Bayer prompted her to work towards the medical product engineering concentration. She is an officer of the Pitt Women’s Choral Ensemble and enjoys dancing any chance she gets.