Sarah Laken

MeetSarahSarah Laken graduated from bioengineering and recently began working full time as a scientist at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis, IN. While at UIUC, she was involved in the Society of Women Engineers, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and also undergraduate research. Sarah studied abroad, had a summer internship, and loved helping at WIE events!  At Eli Lilly, Sarah is putting her BioE degree to good use as a fermentation scientist in external manufacturing. She supports a total of three enzyme intermediates and one drug product that are produced through fermentation at a contract manufacturer. By her three month mark with the company, she had already visited the contract manufacturer in Austria twice! While in Austria, she was on-the-ground support for helping with technical transfers related to process improvements. Both visits were incredible opportunities for learning more about the processes she supports and for getting the chance to better understand the capabilities of the facility. Her engineering background had played a critical role in her understanding of process control, equipment capabilities, as well as being able to evaluate the biological system as a whole.  From her first few months on the job, here are a few key skills that Sarah learned in college that have helped her in her full time role:

  1. Communication is Key: Not only is communication crucial when working with people on the other side of the world, it is also a big part of working on a team and gaining visibility within management. Studying abroad helped her understand communication challenges across time zones and language barriers. Also, as a SWE Officer, Sarah would give monthly updates to the exec board – as a new hire she now gives monthly updates to her supervisor, director, and site head.
  2. Flexibility is Essential: Sarah has observed how quickly things can change in industry – whether it is due to management decisions, budgets, or technical issues,it is important to be able to be flexible and shift priorities when needed. For Sarah’s first visit to the contract manufacturer, she had less than a week’s notice for travel due to technical difficulties where support was needed.
  3. Be Vocal and Negotiate: One big takeaway from college is that you don’t get what you want unless you ask for it, apply for it, or reach out to get it. The same goes in industry. Simply by asking, Sarah has had the opportunity to recruit for Eli Lilly at UIUC and she was sponsored to attend the SWE National Conference in Nashville last October.

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