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Co-Op 100 Spotlight: Prairie Yang

By Kari Lindsey

Prairie Yang, Drexel Chemistry student

April 29, 2020

For 100 years, Drexel has equipped students for the real world through our renowned cooperative education program, also known as Co-op. Drexel’s Co-op program provides students with up to 18 months of real-world work experience with industry leaders. This allows students to test-drive careers and see firsthand how the knowledge they've gained in the classroom can be applied in the field, while building an impressive résumé before graduation. When students come back to the classroom, they return with enhanced knowledge and perspectives that they then share with the rest of the Drexel community.

Prairie Yang, a fifth-year BS/MS Chemistry student, has completed three co-ops. We spoke with Prairie about her experiences with the Co-op program.

Where did you do your co-ops?

My co-ops in chronological order were at Sartomer, GlaxoSmithKline, and GSK Biopharmaceuticals.

What type of work did you do at each location?
At Sartomer, I developed inks and special coatings from UV curable polymers. I chose this to learn the basics of being a researcher and working in a medium-sized company. I customized formulas for clients that required special properties in their polymer inks. I learned to perform independent research and interact with customers.

At GSK, I was in process analytical technologies (PAT). I worked on a single stage of synthesis of a few drugs that were in development for HIV and cancer. I helped with synthesis and monitoring the progression of a reaction, which was vital for the other part of my co-op — creating a monitoring process and program that could access the reaction vessel’s current conditions, then predict the outcome. 

At GSK biopharmaceuticals, I was a manufacturing special co-op, which meant I provided the supporting role in production manufacturing, risk prevention, deviation assessment and production fluidity. I was also part of change controls, protocol writing and instrument maintenance. 

How do you see these fitting into your career trajectory?
None of the co-ops truly reflected my overall trajectory, since I want to pursue a PhD in astrochemistry. But I knew that the co-ops could give me the skills needed to perform well in my future career.

Which was your favorite co-op? Walk us through a day in your life there.
My favorite is between my co-ops at GSK. I loved researching in PAT, because it truly gave me a sense of self and importance. I also loved manufacturing because of the drive, atmosphere and people I worked with. 

On a typical day on co-op, I would arrive and head straight into the lab to set up an instrument. Then I would start monitoring for the day and perform set tasks for the week. Around lunchtime, I would stop monitoring. Afternoons were spent working up data and incorporating it into a program I was creating for GSK to scale up a reaction for the pilot plant in the UK. 

In manufacturing, my day was completely different. I would arrive extremely early, organizing my tasks for the day. Manufacturing is 24 hours, so each day brought new challenges. Beginning at 8 a.m., I had several meetings with various departments. After lunch, my time would be spent on large projects.

What challenges did you have balancing student and professional life? 
There were no challenges balancing professional and student life in my opinion, even when I was taking graduate courses while on co-op. Professional life stops when you leave work, which I think is a wonderful concept. As a student, sometimes it’s hard to separate different parts of your life since they are so entangled. When it comes to a profession, everything can be left at the door when you’re not at work. This aspect allows for me to have an organized reign over my life.