Advisor while a Ph.D. Student: Antonios Zavaliangos
Advisor while a M.S. Student: Michel Barsoum
Year of Graduation: 1999 (BS/MS), 2006 (PhD)
How did you decide to come to Drexel MSE for a Ph.D.?
My history is a little different than most. In 1999, I graduated from MSE (back then it was Materials Engineering) as a BS/MS after which I entered into the Pharmaceutical R&D sector at Merck & Co., Inc. Merck offers a program that allows certain individuals to partake in a Ph.D. leave of absence program, which I quickly enrolled in at the end of 2000 and started taking courses that Fall. My present job function, which covers the field of powder compaction, is the experimental and computational expertise of Professor Antonios Zavaliangos. Antonios is a well known and recognized expert in this field across many industries and academicians and, more importantly, an outstanding teacher and mentor. It would not have made sense for me to do my Ph.D. studies anywhere else.
First Job Post-Graduation and Brief Description of Duties:
My first job is still my current job which is in Pharmaceutical R&D at Merck & Co., Inc. Fundamentally, our department is chartered to define the formula and process for drug products (tablets, capsules, I.V., inhalation, etc.) for new drug molecules (active pharmaceutical ingredients) that are synthesized by organic chemists. Reoccurring activities in our R&D include many of the experimental techniques we learned as undergrads : X-ray powder diffraction, DSC, TGA, mechanical testing, electron microscopy with elemental analysis, laser diffraction particle size, rheometry, BET surface area, FTIR, micro-indentation, and many more. We also have a base engineering skill set and expectation to work with processing equipment that is unique to the Pharmaceutical industry. Internally to Merck, we are given the flexibility and support to integrate novel processes and/or transplant processes from other industries as they apply to our drug product development. Examples of transplanted technologies include traditional polymer processing, ink-jet printing, and metal forming.
How did you find your first job?
Serendipity. A Merck & Co., Inc colleague was partaking in the same Ph.D. Leave of Absence program while I was finishing my M.S. in 1999. He suggested I submit my resume to him for Merck distribution – it worked out well. Otherwise, I was planning on becoming an Ohio/Michigan resident and making intricate parts for automobiles by metal powder compaction.
What have you been doing since?
After I finished my industrial sabbatical in 2006, I have been focused on my family (2 kids now). Occasionally I will dabble in some of my hobbies: home improvements and landscaping/gardening – e.g. completely overhauled (tear down and rebuild) kitchen in early 2007 and master bath at the end of 2007. And, like a good engineer, I will always tinker and learn new ways to process and present data with Excel and Maple.
How do you feel your Ph.D. research and education have contributed to your job?
In R&D, the Ph.D., without a doubt, opens doors that would be difficult or require long durations at a company to achieve. The Ph.D. is an exceptional learning exercise that prepares you as a researcher. Not only do you attain an expertise in your given topic, but more importantly this arduous task prepares you to think differently and creatively about experiments and critically analyzing your data. It also hones you presentation and salesmanship skills that are essential for success in the workplace.
Do you have any advice for students looking for a Ph.D. program or for current students?
My advice is mainly for current students. Don't waste time and keep organized. Start writing as soon as you can. Even if it is short personal project updates on a bi-weekly basis. You would be amazed at how much you forget that you actually worked when you review these update documents years later. These notes serve as great starting material for writing the body of your thesis.