Working Warriors: Ben Forest ’21 Scores Summer Internship amid Pandemic with Albany Molecular Research Inc.

Ben Forest ’21, Mechanical Engineering major and Mathematics minor, is no stranger to internships and gaining new skill sets. With previous experience as a Construction Intern on the Pfizer Plasmids Project at LendLease and an Intern at Carpenter & Paterson, Ben has landed his third experience as a summer intern at Albany Molecular Research Inc., AMRI. In this interview, Ben explains how he secured his internship amid a pandemic, what skills he’s learned on the job, and advice he has for other students looking for out-of-the-classroom experience during this time.

Q: Thanks for allowing us to chat today about your experience at Albany Molecular Research Inc. Let’s start from the beginning. Can you talk about the process of finding and applying for your internship?

A: I had done all of the right things in my hunt for an internship. I went to career and internship fairs on campus and in Boston, and I had sent out countless applications to no avail during the school year. After companies started closing down and internships were getting canceled because of COVID-19, the search only became more difficult. However, I just kept checking for new postings every day and broadened my search to include technical internships.

Q: COVID-19 definitely has thrown a wrench into the plans of many students looking for internships and employment. How did you stay optimistic and persevere when applying for internships during this time?

A: I kept plugging away and checking daily, but at the end of the day I knew there was a chance I would not be able to find an internship with everything going on. So I made a plan of how I was going to better myself if I was unable to land a spot so that I’d be improving my resume regardless of what happened. I planned on taking a summer course, devoting a lot of time to my web portfolio, and taking advantage of LinkedIn Learning. Having a backup plan gave me confidence that my summer was not going to waste.

Q: Thankfully, you scored an internship for the summer! What was the interview process like?

A: The interview process started with a phone interview with a Talent Acquisition Specialist. This interview lasted about 20 minutes. The phone interview went well enough for me to move onto the next round which included a Zoom video interview with the department manager and one of her supervisors. This interview lasted a little over an hour. About ten days later I received a phone call telling me that they wanted to offer me the position.

Q: Now that you’ve been in the position for some time, can you explain your day-to-day job responsibilities?

A: I get to do a lot of different things and am willing to do anything that I can to help out. Below I listed some of the things I accomplished while with AMRI:

  • Find and correct inefficiencies in the production process and training.
  • Gown into Class A and B rooms and obtain gown qualification for Class C and D rooms.
  • Client equipment logistics, understanding if their equipment fits in our cleanrooms.
  • Register in equipment for cGMP use / deregister equipment out of service.
  • Create an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) training tracker which help let us know who is up to date on certain trainings.
  • Data mine batch record information.
  • Analyze inspection data using Excel and pivot tables.
  • Collect engineering batch samples using electronic pipette, peristaltic pump, magnetic stirrer, and manual crimper in the lab.
  • Use Dremel tool to etch into metal and tag equipment.
  • Work with vendors to obtain blueprints and quotes.

Q: That’s great that you are able to have so much hands-on experience. Along with your day-to-day responsibilities, what skills do you feel you have that are strengths to this internship? And what new skills have you developed throughout your internship experience?

A: My familiarity with Excel played a huge role in my time at AMRI, especially when it came to analyzing and graphically representing data from our product fills. Using it in the majority of my classes definitely helped me feel comfortable performing these tasks. My favorite skill that I have developed was experience aseptically gowning into clean room spaces. I also enjoyed getting to use different pieces of lab equipment.

Q: How was Merrimack College able to help prepare you for this internship?

A: The O’Brien Center and Laura Thibodeau [Assistant Director of Career Advising, School of Science & Engineering] specifically were a huge help in making sure I was ready for my search. Laura was always willing to look over my resume and cover letters to ensure they looked their best before sending out. Before and after landing an internship, Laura gave me helpful advice to stand out to future employers including creating an online portfolio, and using LinkedIn Learning.

Q: Is there any advice you have for Merrimack students with regard to career development, interviewing or applying for positions?

A: Always be open-minded about the type of experiences you are willing to pursue. I wouldn’t recommend being dead set on one type of internship or one specific company. If you are upfront and honest about what your interests are and what you’d like to be exposed to, your internship manager may be willing to shape your experience around that. But, you need to be open about it, because they won’t be able to read your mind. My internship did not pop up when I searched for, “mechanical engineering internships.” Really do your research on the different types of fields and titles that people with your desired degree typically take on. This can really help to broaden your search beyond the name of your major plus “internship.”

Are you ready to secure an internship or employment for the fall and beyond? We are here to help you! Visit Handshake today to search for open opportunities, meet with your career advisor, and more.

By Ashley Archangelo
Ashley Archangelo Events & Operations Specialist Ashley Archangelo