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Orlaith Crowther writes about work placement in MSD

Orlaith Crowther writes about work placement in MSD

Published on: Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Article first published in Engineers Journal 25.3.2014

Author: Orlaith Crowther, fourth-year student of BEng (Honours) in Chemical and Biopharmaceutical Engineering, CIT.

Preparation for a career as a process engineer Orlaith Crowther writes that internships in facilities such as MSD Ballydine offer an insight into the tasks and responsibilities of a process engineer, from line flushing to the replacement of lines in the tank farm.


"I am currently in my final year of chemical and biopharmaceutical engineering in CIT. My third-year internship was with MSD (Merck in the USA), which is based in Ballydine in Tipperary, from April to August of this year (2014). Ballydine was one of MSD’s first Irish sites. Set up in 1976, it was originally used for bulk API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) manufacturing. Nowadays, MSD Ballydine is an API and drug product commercialisation site, so there are a wide variety of activities ranging from API processing through to pilot-scale manufacturing of new API and drug product tableting.

From the moment I walked through the door, feeling quite nervous might I add, the staff could not have been friendlier or more helpful. MSD is a great place to work. I was working in Chem Ops 1, the original production building. This gave me a brilliant overview of what it means to be a process engineer. I was working as part of a multi-disciplinary team, which meant that I interacted with not only engineers, but process chemists and the quality team on a daily basis. I felt like I was a contributor to the team and was given real responsibility in my role as a student engineer.

During my placement, I worked on many different projects and assignments, the most important of which was a project preparing the replacement of lines in the tank farm – I managed this project. The biggest thing that this project taught me was the importance of time management. In college, we learn about teamwork and the importance of using time efficiently; this is helped by group projects and hand-up deadlines. Working for a big multinational company, however, you really get an understanding of the necessity of good communication and punctuality in all you do.

For example, as part of the line-flush project, the first step was to figure out which lines needed to be flushed and by when. In order to do this, I had to talk to the engineer in charge of the tank farm area (where solvents are stored for use in processing), as it was the lines from here that needed to be cleaned. I then had to communicate these lines to the contractors who were taking over the project to replace piping once the lines were clean. It was imperative that I communicated the correct lines, as there would have been serious safety implications if someone cut into an unclean line of flammable solvent.

Situated about 10 minutes’ drive from Clonmel, MSD Ballydine is right in the heart of south Tipperary. As there is a lot of industry in the town (Abbott, Bulmers and Boston Scientific all have sites here), it is a busy place to live. From my second week in Tipperary, I was doing something different every night of the week. From swimming to kickboxing – you name it, you’ll find it in the locality somewhere. I guess the highlight of the summer was the tag rugby tournament run annually by Clonmel Rugby Football Club. MSD entered two teams (my team was called ‘The Chancers’) and every Thursday evening, we battled it out against seven other teams for the glory of not winning the wooden spoon. Of course, there was always some socialising afterwards.

All in all, I really enjoyed my internship this summer and it has confirmed for me that I picked the right course four years ago by choosing to become a chemical engineer. Hopefully, having an idea of what is on the other side will make the rest of my studies slightly easier. Now, I just have to get through my fourth year…"

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