Moving Into Industry

ABC Labs and Biochemistry team to prepare students

DSC_5565Collaboration participants Alexandra Diller, Matt Mosior, Tao Wei and Keith Maestas pose with Brian Mooney.

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Biochemistry department and ABC Laboratories have come together to offer a hands-on industry internship program for undergraduates studying biochemistry. The program allows students to train and intern with ABC Laboratories over the summer.

There are currently four MU Biochemistry students enrolled in the program. Students were chosen in a competitive selection process by the department and ABC Laboratories. Alexandra Diller, Matt Mosior, Tao Wei and Keith Maestas were chosen to participate in the program for spring and summer 2014.

Christopher Lee, assistant teaching professor, biochemistry and instructor/leader of the collaboration, along with Brian Mooney, assistant research professor, Research Core Facilities, have been working to prepare the students for the transition on the MU side. Students in the program start training at ABC Laboratories halfway through the semester.

“The Biochemistry-ABC Laboratories internship is important on a number of levels,” Mooney said. “From an educational standpoint, it exposes the students to advanced instrumentation and their application to analyses of complex datasets. The importance of precision and accuracy, keeping good lab notebooks, and carefully following protocols, along with instrument calibration, were also emphasized during the course. From a career standpoint, it allows them to compare and contrast an academic research environment with a regulated industry environment and thus helps them contemplate career paths following graduation.”

The five-credit course is a learning experience combining the study, observation and employment with ABC Laboratories, located in Columbia, Mo. Students attend lecture and lab training throughout the spring semester to prepare for qualification to work at ABC Laboratories. The training includes a twice-a-week lecture and 10 hours a week of hands-on work in the labs. During the summer, students will complete 40-hour paid work weeks at ABC Laboratories. Students will be evaluated and expected to present a seminar to ABC Laboratories at the end of the program. After completing the internship program, students will be required to perform outreach to recruit students for the following year.

“This class/internship has been an incredible opportunity for me,” Maestas said. “As a senior getting ready to enter the ‘real world’ there is a lot of uncertainty and uneasiness in trying to get a job. Due to the high regulations and intensive training it’s hard to get any industry experience before graduation. Dr. Lee has set this up so that we very smoothly transition from performing familiar lab work and lectures in a class setting on campus to working on site and getting trained as a professional.”

The idea for the collaboration began last May, when both the Biochemistry department and ABC Laboratories showed interest in coming together to create a program. Because of the nature of the work and regulatory environment at ABC Laboratories, it generally takes all employees 3-6 months of training to be qualified to work in labs. This time requirement made internships for students almost impossible. With this program, students will be able to gain hands-on industry experience.

“This collaboration is important because an undergraduate student studying biochemistry isn’t always prepared for the industry upon graduation,” Lee said. “This will prepare students that want to work in the field after graduation. This program can also lead to a full-time job with ABC Laboratories for the students after the internship is completed.”

ABC Laboratories delivers a broad array of product development and analytical testing services to the pharmaceutical, biotech, animal health, crop protection, consumer products and chemical industries. Their mission is to become a trusted extension of their client’s product development teams, helping them meet the global demand for safer, more effective products.

ABC President and CEO, John Bucksath, said that the program is one way the growing company can cultivate the next wave of ABC employees. “So many students pursuing an education in life sciences think of academia or medicine as their only career paths,” he said. “In fact, there is a tremendous demand for scientific brainpower in private industry.”