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By Dawn Downey

DawnDowneyAs a chemical engineer, I had never heard of AAPS in either undergraduate or graduate school. It was most common to get involved with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) not only for exposure to programming related to my studies but also for networking and job opportunities. I found my first job at a pharmaceutical company through the career center at an AIChE annual meeting. Once I started working there, I was one of the few engineers in a role supporting development and troubleshooting in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products. In fact, most of my mentors had degrees in pharmacy or pharmaceutics. They suggested I attend an AAPS annual meeting, and I found that the programming there was most applicable to my work.

A few years later, my office mate from graduate school became an officer in the Manufacturing, Engineering, and Quality (MEQ) focus group. She got me involved in that as secretary/treasurer, and from that point on, AAPS was my primary professional society. It was very interesting to attend jamborees representing my focus group and start to develop my own programming. The most interesting part of AAPS involvement for me is coming up with an idea for a program that had not been covered in the past, submitting that program, organizing and working with speakers from different companies and academia, and then seeing that program “come to life” at the AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition. I love to hear the audience response and feedback from speakers on programs that I helped develop and bring to AAPS. Through this type of interaction, I network and learn how other companies are approaching technical problems that we may also have at companies where I have worked. I can think of several times over the years when I was able to apply what I learned through AAPS to my own work to advance my company and my own career. When I was working in contract manufacturing, AAPS was a great forum to interact with customers as well.

When the Manufacturing Science and Engineering (MSE) section was formed, I became its first secretary/treasurer. It was great for me to get involved at the section level, continue to develop programming, and start to bring other chemical engineers I knew into MSE and AAPS. When I started working in sterile products, I became more active in programming for the AAPS National Biotechnology Conference (NBC). That has helped me to network with a new group of people and also stay up to date with the latest technical advances in the field. Currently I am serving as the NBC Screener Committee’s chair for the MSE section as well as the MSE representative on the Membership Strategic Oversight Committee.

I look forward to continuing to work with AAPS in the future. My involvement with AAPS has been a key to my growth and success in the pharmaceutical industry. I hope other engineers, chemists, biologists, and medical professionals will consider getting involved with AAPS so that they may experience some of the great benefits I have found here.

Dawn Downey, Ph.D., is a senior engineer at AstraZeneca and has been working in pharmaceuticals for almost 15 years.  She received her degree in chemical and biomedical engineering from Iowa State University.