An interview with Kayla DeGuire. DeGuire completed an Associate's degree through the Madison College Biotech Program.
1. What do you currently do (what is your current job title/company)? Please elaborate on your career pathway after finishing our program if needed.
I am a biomanufacturing senior associate at Catalent Pharma Solutions. I have worked at Catalent since 2017, developing experience in both biomanufacturing and quality control microbiology positions. In my current role, I manufacture clinical phase biologic pharmaceuticals to treat illnesses ranging from cancer to the COVID-19 pandemic to genetic diseases. Our manufacturing department covers a variety of upstream and downstream production and development platforms, but my personal area of focus is mRNA therapeutics and aseptic fill and finish.
2. What does a typical workday look like for you? What are some lab techniques that you commonly use? Any favorites?
A typical day in operations involves gowning into controlled rooms and executing standard operating procedures (SOPs) and batch production records (BPRs) to manufacture biologic products. Operators follow current good manufacturing procedures (cGMPs) aligning with industry, regulatory, and safety standards and maintain good documentation practices (GDP) to ensure accurate record of production and analytical processes. Fundamental lab techniques I commonly use include aseptic techniques to prevent contamination, and performing measurements of mass, volume, pH, conductivity, absorbance, and protein concentration. These skills provide the foundation for higher level procedures I routinely execute, such as conducting reactions in bioreactors and using bioseparation methods like chromatography and tangential flow filtration (TFF) to purify product and exchange buffer solutions. Upon completing a manufacturing process, I review batch records and work with the quality control and quality assurance departments to ensure all product specifications, documentation, and investigation requirements have been met before the product can be released. I also enjoy working on process improvement projects and helping establish processes for new projects as they arise.
3. How has the Madison College Biotech program/certificate helped you in your current position?
The Madison College Biotechnology program educates students on a broad range of industry topics with considerable focus on hands-on laboratory experience. The combination of lecture and lab-based learning provided a solid, well-rounded foundation for me to perform a variety of functions within the field, and gave me the necessary confidence, knowledge, and skills to hit the ground running straight out of college.
The lessons and skills I developed in the Madison College Biotechnology program have remained valuable throughout my career progression across multiple disciplines and departments.
4. What advice would you give someone who is interested in a biotech career?
Biotechnology is a thriving, growing industry with many employment opportunities and career avenues. It is an exciting, ever-changing field of discovery with the potential to change the world of science, medicine, agriculture, bioremediation, renewable energy, and more...but all of this amazing potential starts with the vision, capabilities, and outlook of scientists. My advice to someone interested in pursuing a biotechnology career is firstly that your education and career are a personal investment: You get out of it what you put into it, so stay engaged and seek out opportunities to further develop your knowledge, skills, and experience -- Laboratory internships are a great way to do this while working on your degree, and once you are established in a career you can learn a lot through cross-training and job shadowing other departments.
My second piece of advice is about perspective and understanding that the road to scientific success is often paved with unexpected hurdles: While it can be frustrating when an incorrect hypotheses or unsuccessful experiment fails to provide the desired outcome, it is important to keep in mind that setbacks still provide valuable data points, learning experience, and process characterization that bring you one step closer to reaching your goals.