‘Rising Star’ Shines Through First Internship Experience

Thursday, August 27, 2020 by
Image shows a smiling Madison Wendelin standing outside next to a sign reading AstraZeneca.

Madison Wendelin spent the summer of 2020 working for AstraZeneca, a top contender in the race to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. The company named her a “rising star," an honor shared by only nine other interns worldwide. She is returning to the company in the summer of 2021.

My internship with AstraZeneca was my first opportunity to work in a professional environment. It has proved to be a fulfilling and rewarding experience that enabled me to expand my knowledge in my field of study.

I accepted the quality assurance internship at AstraZeneca’s plant in Mount Vernon, Indiana, with three goals in mind: to learn as much as possible about the practical application of chemical engineering in pharmaceuticals; to make a lasting contribution that benefits the company and its employees and to gain experience and insight into the industrial process. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to capitalize on my experiences and surpass these goals.

An unexpected aspect of my internship was the many leadership opportunities provided throughout the summer. I was assigned two projects, led several meetings, spent company money for project resources, and presented my ideas before leadership teams. I was pleasantly surprised to be entrusted with such significant responsibilities as an intern.

My first project was creating a manual for the quality department that outlined procedures, protocol, and transactions in SAP, a software used industry-wide but specifically used at AstraZeneca for inventory. SAP is used to move a batch of pharmaceutical product through each step in its production. The software can be very difficult for users to maneuver. My assignment was to compile a list of information in regard to SAP deemed useful by subject matter experts. The final product was a 67-page booklet that will be printed for each member of the quality department, as well as implemented as a part of annual refresher training for current employees and onboarding training for new employees.

The second project was designing and assembling a visual reference board for the packing department to aid in the assessment of defect severity found on the assembly line during packaging. As defects were found on the floor, production often slowed as personnel in packing and quality had to be notified, evaluate the defect, and decide on whether to stop production in order to examine the equipment. This project included identifying which defects should be featured on the board, collecting samples and pictures of the defects, and meeting with packing personnel to organize the samples into categories of “acceptable/monitor” or “unacceptable.”

Three categories of packing defects are included on the board: bottle defects, blister defects, and carton defects. I decided the best way to clearly categorize these defects was to color-code their labels. The bottle defects had blue labels, blister defects had green labels and carton defects had maroon labels. I designed a key outlining this color-coding system, as well as providing instructions for the “acceptable/monitor” and “unacceptable” rankings on defects, posting it on the wall-space next to the board. The final product was a board featuring 20 defects, each contained in clear plastic cases. The cases are placed on a whiteboard, attached with magnets. This allows the cases to be removable, which enables the defect assessor to easily access the cases. Several of the cases also had backsides, meaning when flipped over, more defect information was found on the back of the case.

Due to the assembly of the project, it presented the opportunity to run cost analyses, as well as meet with a contractor to discuss outsourcing the plastic cases. Custom-made cases were found to be very expensive, and I was able to find a cheaper option, saving the company over $10,000. All of the information and visuals I created for the board have been passed on to a sister plant site, so they may construct a board of their own, modeled after my work.

Both of my projects are “living documents” and can be updated in the future. Thus, both assignments challenged me to think long-term and make them as easily accessible and user-friendly as possible.

AstraZeneca is a leading contender in the race to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. Every AstraZeneca employee plays a role and serves as a gear in a well-oiled machine. My efforts this summer resulted in two tools that will serve to promote increased efficiency and productivity, allowing employees to better focus their energy on the production and distribution of pharmaceuticals.

This internship experience gave me confidence and perspective that I have acquired personal and professional skills to be successful in the future, truly serving as a learning opportunity in all aspects. During my time at Rose-Hulman, I have learned a great deal of the science and engineering that will be applied in my future career. This summer, I was able to put my knowledge to the test and prove to myself I am capable of success in the workplace.

I have aspired to work in the pharmaceutical industry since I selected chemical engineering as my major. I have always been fascinated by biology and chemistry, and have pictured myself in a field that dealt with both, such as medicine. This summer was my first experience in this industry, and I plan to use it as a stepping stone in my career path. I am confident I would thoroughly enjoy and find fulfillment in a career in pharmaceuticals.

My educational background from Rose has thoroughly prepared me for the rigors of the workplace. It has provided me a strong foundation of knowledge, which I utilized this summer to perform assigned tasks and communicate effectively with my coworkers. Outside of my immediate projects, I led multiple team meetings and conducted several presentations, one of which was to a leadership team to receive approval for the packaging defect board project. Due to the preparation I have received from Rose-Hulman, I have found myself prepared to work as an individual contributor as well as a team member, prioritizing responsibilities and working in a timely manner to meet deadlines.