After completing his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in India, Divyam Shah knew he needed a graduate degree to work in the biopharmaceutical industry. He chose the Master's in Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Engineering (MS-BTPE) program at Carnegie Mellon because, unlike many other programs he looked at, it gives him the biological sciences background he lacked.
Shah was first introduced to engineering through an Elements of Mechanical Engineering course in high school. Even though he "learned about all the fun stuff that mechanical engineers do," Shah says that chemical engineering fascinated him because everything around us, from water to our headphones, is made up of chemicals. "The first sentence that an undergraduate professor said to me is, 'Chemical engineers are universal engineers.' That felt to be of great help to me," he says.
The MS-BTPE program was formed in 2019 to prepare biology and engineering BS graduates for careers in the pharmaceutical industry. In bringing together students from both disciplines, the program mirrors what happens in industry.
Shah plans to go into pharmaceutical research and development. Courses on protein based drug development and immunoengineering drug development are preparing him for this path. "In these courses," he says, "I've been involved in projects designing novel drugs and novel targets for drugs."
In his second semester, Shah took a bioseparations and spectroscopy course taught by Jim Schneider, professor of chemical engineering. "Right now in my internship, I'm working on high performance liquid chromatography and UV spectroscopy. All those concepts were taught to me by Jim Schneider," he says.
Shah's summer internship is with Lonza, one of the world's largest contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMO). Shah is at their R&D site in Tampa, FL, where they manufacture small tablets on a small scale, test them, and then transfer the technology to the manufacturing team in preparation for clinical trials.
Shah's work at Lonza involves optimizing and developing new formulations and novel drug delivery systems. "For example, I'm working on tiny tablets that can be delivered through a nasogastric tube," he says. "By going through the nose and directly into the stomach, this drug delivery system helps patients who are unconscious or who cannot swallow."
At the end of the workday, Shah loves walking and listening to music, watching cricket, and playing table tennis.
He is enjoying the weather in Tampa, which he describes as almost the same as his hometown in India. "It resonates with me, and I really love the vibe of this place," he says.