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Melissa Vandersluis, BEng BioSci '15

Chemical Engineering | The Culture of the Lab

A 12-month co-op placement in the biopharmaceutical industry launched Melissa Vandersluis into a career as a research and development scientist.

As a student, she didn’t know much about the industry, admits the 2015 Chemical and Bioengineering graduate. But a placement with Burlington-based Natrix Separations (now MilliporeSigma) gave her an in-depth look at laboratory life and turned into a permanent post-graduation job.

MilliporeSigma is a global life-sciences corporation that serves researchers around the world working on the production of biotechnology and pharmaceutical drug therapies.

Today, Vandersluis works in membrane chromatography, where she “promotes the development of robust, simplified and cost-efficient bioprocesses in monoclonal antibody, vaccine and virotherapy applications.”

It’s a role that allows her to combine her passions for biology and engineering, while also providing the opportunity to collaborate with researchers across the United States and Europe. So far she has published two journal articles, in addition to other technical articles and conference posters.

“It’s been eye-opening to see how much work, including testing, optimization, logistics, and customer education, goes into developing and selling a single product,” says Vandersluis. “I’m really excited to work in an industry that’s evolving to use state-of-the-art equipment and techniques in order to more rapidly produce life-saving medicines.”

For today’s students who are just a few years behind her, Vandersluis urges an open mind.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she says. “Simply speaking with other people is an amazing resource that can offer new perspectives and fast-track problem-solving.”