URI biotechnology students start chapter of International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering

Johnston resident elected first president

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — November 6, 2006 — Nineteen students from the University of Rhode Island’s Biotechnology Manufacturing Program at the Feinstein Providence Campus have started a chapter of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering.

Anthony Desmarais of Johnston, the chapter president, said his class saw a presentation last year about the benefits of being involved with the organization, including networking and contact opportunities, and they found the group to be “very people-oriented and approachable.” Upon meeting a former associate and getting more valuable information about the biotechnology industry, Desmarais and his fellow classmates formed the URI chapter.

The international organization offers professional resources and events to students to help them develop their career options. ISPE is the largest professional organization for pharmaceutical engineers, providing numerous opportunities to help students work and mentor with top professionals in the field.

The chapter’s first meetings this year focused on entry-level positions in the biotechnology industry and the experiences of recent graduates in these positions. The next session will focus on where these industries are located. “The fourth session will hopefully have top management in biotech companies discuss their careers, how they started, and what they did to achieve their current positions,” Desmarais said.

Edward Bozzi, administrator for student affairs at URI’s Providence campus and a chemistry lecturer for the biotechnology manufacturing program, is the group’s faculty advisor. He said that it is up to the students to make the most of ISPE membership by meeting as many people in the industry as possible and networking with them. “Ultimately these students will be working in the industry and ISPE will help them find the best position,” he said. “From my 30 years experience in the global chemistry industry, I know that networking is the key to good employment.”

For Desmarais, his interest in pursuing a biotechnology career came from a personal experience. “When I was deciding whether to follow a career in biotechnology, my daughter had to have a heart procedure at Boston Children’s Hospital. While waiting for the procedure, we walked around the block near the hospital. I had never been in that area of Boston and was amazed at all of the medical and research institutions located in one area. It was then I decided that biotechnology was the way to go.”

After being laid off from a job in the jewelry industry after 15 years, Desmarais decided to “retool” himself and look for a job in a growing industry. He noticed an ad in the newspaper for URI’s biotechnology program and decided to go back to school full-time. “It was tough at times to get back into the learning mode after being away from school for over 25 years, but I am glad I did it and would do it again.”

Desmarais is now employed by Amgen.

URI’s chapter of the ISPE is one of four student affiliate chapters in New England. The Biotechnology Manufacturing Program at the URI Providence Campus has a bright future, according to Desmarais, who said he and the other ISPE officers are currently helping members of this year’s class decide what path to follow in the biotechnology industry. “With biotechnology growing rapidly there is great interest in the field and ever increasing interest in our successful program,” Bozzi said.