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Undergraduate student wants experience in Industrial Biotech, Erasmus, etc.

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Undergraduate student wants experience in Industrial Biotech, Erasmus, etc.

Postby SBT » Sun Apr 12, 2015 1:37 pm

A.) A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND

I’m a second-year undergraduate student (non-EU citizen, unfortunately) pursuing my first cycle degree in Biotechnology at an Italian university. Next year I’m going to do an obligatory internship (and thesis project).

All students are encouraged to look for public or private organizations willing to train interns. Usually undergraduate students only look for internships inside our university, preferably in laboratories dealing with research topics that best suit their interests. Only few students choose to look outside our university to gain practical experience. These students usually end up training in local industries or choose to participate in mobility programs such as Erasmus Plus.

B.) WHAT DO I LIKE?

I prefer to gain practical experience in a field that really fascinates me and keeps me really motivated for the entire duration of the training program.

Recently, I figured out that my interests lie in the industrial aspects of biotechnology: from looking for innovative protein expression systems, developing chemically-defined cell culture media formulations suitable for industrial purposes, to engineering novel metabolic pathways for mass production of biotechnological products; anything is fine as long as it involves bio-industrial applications (I don’t want to overspecialize just yet).

C.) WHAT'S MY PLAN?

Gain as much experience as I can in the field of industrial biotechnology, preferably in protein manufacturing or metabolic engineering. I plan to have my first cycle degree AND second cycle degree theses deal with such topics. I’d go outside of Italy just to do it. Why? I don’t like the biomedical side (like drug discovery or pharmacology), the only topics that really spark my interest are the bio-industrial ones. I don’t even care about the job prospects, I’ll deal with that later on. For now, passion guides me.

D.) WHAT'S MY PROBLEM?

The problem is that I am having trouble looking for a university department that deals with my fields of interest. Almost all of the local university labs deal with drug discovery, receptor physiology and more drug discovery (I don’t like pharmacology and drug discovery, if you haven’t noticed it yet).

UPDATE: I recently found a local laboratory that deals with photobioreactors and microbial production of biopolymers, although I have no idea if I can use the experience gained in this area in the field of protein manufacturing.

E.) MY INITIAL SOLUTIONS?

I thought I can bypass this problem by participating in a mobility program like Erasmus Plus and look for internships in universities that interest me. I have to face many obstacles though…

1.) If I have to do the internship next year then I have to apply this month (April 2015), and chances are that they’ll not accept me because my university discourages first cycle degree students to participate in such programs. I also have to finish my exams, and they’ll probably reject my application based on this motivation alone. Plus, I’m a non-EU citizen, so my choices are fairly limited. If they ever DO accept me, then I’d probably end up in a non-English speaking Schengen country and I’d have to deal with communication barriers, which will make my internship experience a nightmare.

2.) If I want to maximize my chances of getting in Erasmus (earning more credits, since it’s part of the selection criteria), then I have to apply next year, which will prolong my graduation time. (Instead of 3/3.5 years, I’ll graduate in 4 years). But I want to get out of the university as fast as possible, so I prefer to not do this plan.

3.) If I choose to do my internship in my university (and choose to do bio-industrial stuff only during my master’s thesis), chances are I’ll end up in a laboratory that deals with drug discovery or receptors… Problem is that I might achieve little dealing with stuff that never interests me.

F.) ENDING REMARKS

I don’t even know why I’m writing this, since I believe most of you are based in US and not in Europe. Did I consider everything under consideration? Did I miss something? Does gaining experience in industrial biotechnology worth it, even if it means postponing my graduation time? Does a university setting suitable to gain bio-industrial experience? Am I too ambitious?

Thanks for any response, and sorry for my lengthy posts. Cheers!
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Re: Undergraduate student wants experience in Industrial Biotech, Erasmus, etc.

Postby PG » Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:23 am

First we actually do have a significant number of participants from europe including a couple of advisors. Passion is good and some would say an absolute requirement if you want to pursue a science career but what are your long term goals? It seems that you want to move to industry, if that is correct are you planning for a PhD or do you want to go to industry without a PhD? If you are planning to move to industry without a PhD any industry experience that you can get before your graduation will be valuble (to a reasonable extent).

On the other hand if you want to pursue a PhD very few will care about what you did before entering into the PhD program and graduating sooner will be a good idea if you can secure a PhD position
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Re: Undergraduate student wants experience in Industrial Biotech, Erasmus, etc.

Postby D.X. » Wed Apr 15, 2015 2:44 am

Hi SBT,

First, I would not be to concerned with rushing the completion of your degree. The reason you are in a University is to explore the Universe.

It is well possible you can complete your degree in 3.5 years or 4 years, but with what exactly? a bunch of class-room time and minimal internship experience. My recommendation is do what you need to be competitive for the internships you need to apply for. Take the minimum course work that would allow you to competitively apply for an internship of value.

Regarding Erasmus. You can't go wrong with such experience. Two of my family members have been Erasmus awardees (they are Italian). One got her Erasmus opportunity in the Life Sciences in Ireland during her undergraduate degree, the other got hers in Economics in the US during her undergraduate degree as well. Both were career and personal life enhancers, the latter met her husband during her Erasmus Fellowship. For the prior, in life sciences, that experience took her to a very well known research institute in Italy following her degree.

They both went back and complete their first cycle laurea, back then it was "Dottore" or in their case 'Dottoresa' degrees, with minimal delay in graduation time, they were still able to complete their exams and finish well ahead of the curve for Italy with a notch on their belt. (in 5 years which was standard for the first degree in Italy at the time).

Based on those experiences, I recommend you try to get any fellowship either industrial or academic while doing your degree. I am show you can your own way within the industrial sciences.

For my experiences (as a US) during my undergrad degree, I walked away with 3 fellowships - one academic, one industrial, and one foreign (Italy!). I still completed my degree in 4 years which is spot-on-time for a US undergrad degree. Whereas I decided to go grad school, I had a door open for a job in my industrial internship after my graduation. As a joke, despite the experience, one can still make less intelligent decisions such as the path I took (he he).

Good luck,

DX
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