Keith Runes is one of the few students here at Lehigh, who has made the very wise decision to take part in a co-op. After interviewing him this week I am convinced that every student should attempt to participate in a co-op if their schedule permits them to. It truly is a huge opportunity to learn about yourself and to learn about the real world, which definitely is going to put Keith ahead of many applicants when it comes time to look for a job Senior year.
A bit of background on Keith is that he is a Junior Bioengineering major on the Biomechanics and Materials track. He decided to major in bioengineering because he really enjoyed biology in high school, and even enjoyed studying for the AP Biology exam. The choice to come to Lehigh for Keith had to do with the amazing financial aid that Lehigh offers, and I was in the same boat as Keith not really knowing how amazing Lehigh was until I got here. His favorite professor that he has had so far is Professor Jedlicka, who taught his BIOE 110 class and ultimately helped him decide what track he was going to take within Bioengineering.
Keith decided to participate in the co-op because his parents encouraged him to gain experience outside of the classroom. He began by looking up opportunities on LUCIE and talking to Nick Praedin, the enigneering advisor in the career center. Keith ended up applying to Sanofi and after three rounds of interviews he was accepted into the co-op program, where he has found his passion and even gets paid $20/hour. When talking to Keith I could tell that he was genuinely interested and excited about the things he is learning at Sanofi about vaccination creation, and he expressed how surprised he was that Sanofi works so closely with WHO. He said basically Sanofi sets its goals and assigns projects based on the needs expressed by WHO, for example currently the focus is on designing a Zika vaccine.
Keith in his project is looking at a different way to test the shelf-life of a vaccine, which is typically two to three years. Currently the method to test this is Single Radial Immunodiffusion (SRID) Assay, but this method is expensive and it takes a long time. Keith is researching enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and he gets to design his own experiment trying to optimize this testing method. Through his experiences at Sanofi he has learned so much about what it is like to work and learn in a professional setting. He has learned about networking within the company, about conducting business in a professional manner, and even about talking on the phone. He also emphasized that you never stop learning once you enter the workforce. Every three years Sanofi has its workers go through training on things as simple as using a micr0-pipette to GMP practices. He also emphasized that what these companies care about is your ability to think and come up with ideas. We do no know everything, and in the real world you cannot just google answers to your problems, but you actually have to try to reason them out yourself. At the end of his experience Keith will be presenting in front of his department about his findings and experiences at Sanofi. I had an amazing time learning about Keith’s experiences, and if you have questions about participating in a co-op he is a great resource, so feel free to reach out.