Growing up, Marlena always had an affinity for math and chemistry. Coupled with her interest in healthcare and cosmetic chemistry, chemical engineering was the perfect fit. At Northeastern, however, Marlena realized that another passion of hers lies in understanding processes as a whole and being able to use systems thinking to inform decisions. This realization led her to explore other facets of the engineering world, leading her to engineering business and the Galante Program.
Marlena’s time at Northeastern began in a somewhat unique way – as an NU.in student, she completed her first semester in Dublin, Ireland. There, she tookall of her introductory level classes while being able to explore, travel, experience a new culture, and make life-long friends. Once back on the main campus, Marlena quickly got involved in student life. She has been a member of both the Northeastern dance team and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers for four years.
During her undergraduate career, Marlena completed two co-op experiences and one internship within the biopharma industry. Her first co-op was at EMD Serono, a division of Merck, where she was a medicinal chemist. In this role, Marlena was essentially tasked with redesigning reaction pathways in order to achieve a more efficient synthesis of a specific molecule, leading to a 66% increase in product yields. Her second co-op was at Snapdragon Chemistry, where she worked in flow chemistry to improve mixing effectiveness within different processes. At her last internship, Marlena worked at Bristol Myers Squibb as a downstream process development engineer. Her role involved viral filtration methods within bioreactors. This was Marlena’s favorite experience because of the great work environment and quick learning period. In Marlena’s words, her “favorite part about chemical engineering is the ability to be creative and problem solve.” She is “extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work in the pharmaceutical industry and make an impact on patients in need.”
“Extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work in the pharmaceutical industry and make an impact on patients in need”
It was through these co-ops that Marlena discovered her enjoyment of systems thinking and the business side of engineering, which led her to the Galante Program – the perfect combination of all of these interests. Marlena joined the Galante Program in November of 2021. She has since become heavily involved in the program, currently serving as the mentor to two students, as well as the research coordinator. In her research coordinator position, her goal is to come up with various research projects to help improve the Galante Program. For example, her current project is bridging the gap between software programs that are taught in standard Northeastern classes and the programs used in industry in order to ensure that all Galante fellows are well-prepared prior to graduation.
“Take advantage of all of the events, participate as much as possible, and make a point to talk to the speakers”
Marlena has found great value in all of the networking opportunities, guest speaker events, and grant funds that are a part of Galante. She has met people with a wide variety of interests and trajectories, including some of the amazing guest speakers that have spoken to the cohort. Recently, Marlena was particularly interested in a seminar about systematic thinking, as it related directly to her position at Bristol Myers Squibb in process engineering. If she were to give one piece of advice to prospective Galante fellows, it would be to “take advantage of all of the events, participate as much as possible, and make a point to talk to the speakers.” Additionally, she plans to utilize her professional development grant to obtain her Six Sigma green belt certification to contribute to her data analytics and system informatics skills.
“Not only learned to be a leader, but to be a good teammate”
After graduation, Marlena plans to pursue a career in either biopharmaceuticals or personal care industry. She hopes to start her career working in a lab, and eventually move on to management positions in order to bridge the gap between the engineering and business sides of the company. Marlena has found the experiences she has gained from Northeastern and her extracurriculars have been invaluable, and that she has “not only learned to be a leader, but to be a good teammate.” She greatly looks forward to applying and improving on these skills in the workplace.