nlike their predecessors, millennials are known to be purpose-driven. According to a Deloitte global survey of 13,416 millennials including those in Singapore, many prefer to see themselves contribute to “positive change”. Jannah Dzulkiflie, 24, had the opportunity to do just that, as an undergraduate at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).
As part of her final-year project and eight-month Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) with Tychan Pte Ltd, a clinical-stage biotechnology company, Jannah was tasked with contributing towards improving the efficiency of research and development work focused on optimising treatments for infectious diseases.
“Being a part of [the research project] was a very big deal for me,” says Jannah, who has a diploma in biotechnology from Singapore Polytechnic. "The research project experience gave me an opportunity to learn from established industry professionals and enabled me to assimilate into the working environment.”
Such research work is crucial in the fast-paced world of the pharmaceutical industry, says Dr Debbie Lee, principal scientist at Tychan. “There is currently an unmet need in the industry to reduce translational timelines for infectious disease therapeutics,” explains Dr Lee, Jannah’s IWSP and work supervisor. “Our goal is to shorten these timelines so life-saving treatments can reach patients faster.”
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ZEROING IN ON A NICHE
Jannah’s internship experience contributing towards actual health issues is a core component of SIT’s pedagogy of applied research. This trains students to provide solutions to real world societal problems, positively impacting the industry and community.
“This is important as many skillsets are needed to solve the challenges of the future, which are typically multifaceted and trans-disciplinary, and cannot be taught in traditional lectures,” says SIT’s assistant provost (Applied Research), Associate Professor Susanna Leong. “Acquiring these skillsets can significantly increase their industry-readiness and build their confidence to be effective in their jobs from day one.”
This exposure to solving real problems through applied research not only bolstered Jannah’s confidence in her chosen field, but also reaffirmed her passion for it. “This industry has shown excellent growth and job prospects,” says Jannah. "And the job is a meaningful one; at the end of the day, the work — my work — will have an impact on people’s lives."
In addition to enriching industrial attachments, Jannah also gained “a holistic approach” to the pharmaceutical industry through cross-disciplinary modules at SIT such as Plant Design, which required her to design a manufacturing plant from scratch.
These modules helped hone her critical thinking skills. “I also developed scientific reasoning abilities, and learnt how to problem-solve and troubleshoot when experiments did not go according to plan,” Jannah says.
The university’s facilities also helped to prepare her for the workforce. “The lab [on campus] has been designed to simulate a production plant in the industry, and each student was assigned a role within the lab.”
"The job is a meaningful one; at the end of the day, the work — my work — will have an impact on people’s lives."
HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING
Such comprehensive preparation is necessary in the constantly evolving pharmaceutical industry. “New technologies are rapidly being developed or refined to address rising cost and to keep up with regulatory changes,” says Dr Lee. “These factors influence overall access and affordability to life-saving therapeutics.”
To meet with industry demands, Tychan, she adds, values employees who are “inquisitive, motivated to learn, able to take initiative to problem-solve, and who can work as a team to contribute towards company goals”.
This is why interested applicants who have been through SIT’s IWSP are viewed favourably. “They naturally integrate better into the work environment as they are more familiar with the demands and processes of the industry,” says Dr Lee.
In fact, so prepared was Jannah to hit the ground running that she was offered a full-time role at Tychan at the end of her IWSP, and joined the company as a researcher associate ahead of her graduation ceremony. “Having already familiarised myself with the culture and work demands at Tychan, I felt I could immediately contribute effectively and efficiently,” she says with a smile.