The Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL) has been a large part of my college career. In my 3rd year of undergrad, I joined the Illinois Biodiesel Initiative (IBI), a Registered Student Organization on campus. We were originally based in the Noyes chemistry building, but in the summer, we were notified that we were moving to a brand-new facility on campus, IBRL. I worked in IBRL as a member of IBI for 2 years. Upon graduation in December 2019, I was fortunate enough to be hired as an academic hourly staff member for the spring and summer semesters, until I started graduate school.
I wanted to work at IBRL since I wanted some industry experience and was interested in how products are designed and optimized for industry. The process of scaling something up from lab scale to industry scale is extremely important and something not commonly seen, but it is what is done every day at IBRL. Additionally, I wanted a way to blend my interest in research and interest in industry, as well as get hands-on experience and learn as much as possible.
I plan on earning a PhD and entering the industry for research and development. Since the goal of all R&D scientists is to develop a product that eventually reaches the public at a large scale, pilot plants are very important. Additionally, many PhD students work closely with pilot plants, or work in one post-graduation. Being able to work in one and learn what the process is like has been a rewarding experience and will certainly be useful for me in the future.
Working at IBRL has been a great experience. I have been able to learn a lot during my time there, from practical skills such as welding, to industrial skills such as running a fermentation or separation process, to soft skills such as seeing how research projects are conducted in the industry. Additionally, one can learn about industry from the people that come in from various companies, or the IBRL staff who have prior industry experience. There are not many places where you would be able to work this closely with experts in their fields, and the experience you gain from it is invaluable. The IBRL staff have always been extremely kind to me, and they are happy to teach me about what is going on, and to answer any question that I have. Altogether, working at IBRL has been a rewarding experience for me, and I’m glad I was able to do it.