Campus & Community

Stevens Professor Elaine Pratt Mentors Women Through Pharma Club

Just two semesters old, the Stevens Institute of Technology Women in Pharmaceutical Industry Club is already having an impact on its members, providing tools and education to women preparing to enter the pharmaceutical industry. It is a place where essential job skills supplement rigorous classroom learning for women in thePharmaceutical Manufacturing Graduate Program.

The club was organized in fall 2010 by charter president Vignya Shah and Industry Professor of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Elaine Pratt, of the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science.

As an Industry Professor, Pratt comes to Stevens with over 30 years of pharmaceutical industry experience, working in tablet production line supervision and as Technical Training Manager for Schering-Plough before going into consulting. Her expertise aids in technical understanding of the pharmaceutical industry, and she serves as a mentor for the women in the club. The group's most popular event so far this year was a workshop offered by Pratt on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), the FDA's regulations for the pharmaceutical industry.

"This club gives students an understanding of what's required, and the regulated atmosphere of the pharmaceutical industry," Pratt says. "I think it helps in interviews that they can demonstrate some level of understanding of the regulatory atmosphere."

Equally important for the students has been the communications and networking skills that have been the focus of some meetings. Club president Khushboo Kapoor says that she is more confident and has a better grasp on pharmaceutical industry practices, in addition to improving her communications skills: "To make your voice heard and to really lead, you need to be a good speaker."

Pratt's experience in industry and as a consultant has given her a deep understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and the evolving role of women within it. Things have come a long way since Pratt's first job, where she was one of only a few women in a leadership position. "I certainly had some wonderful male mentors, but I think that having a female mentor offers an extra dimension to the experience for women," Pratt explains.

As a woman in pharmaceutical management in the 1980s, she was something of a pioneer. Pratt was one of the first female managers at her company, and one of the first to require maternity leave - a situation the company had never faced before. "Nowadays, nobody thinks twice about anyone taking maternity leave, at any level," notes Pratt.

Her experience navigating uncharted territory is a boon to club members, especially with international students who are more reserved or who do not have a solid grasp on American norms and industry regulations.

The club's charter president, Vignya Shah, says she learned a great deal working as a teaching assistant for Professor Pratt before the club was founded. Through her conversations with Pratt, Vignya acquired the knowledge and skill set that today inform in the club's identity: time management and work strategies as well as ethics and business practices. "Stevens has given me good exposure to the industry," she asserts. "Professor Pratt has been very supportive, along with the other professors." Having graduated in winter 2010, Vignya now conducts research in the Stevens Pharmaceutical Research Center.

Over time, the group hopes to open up to women from more diverse pharma-related fields, such as Chemistry, Chemical Biology, and Biomedical EngineeringChemical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. For now, however, pharmaceutical manufacturing students like Khushboo revel in the knowledge and experience they gain through the club.

"This is what I have always wanted to do - to be in a place where I can innovate in the field of medicine," Khushboo says. "I want to work with people who want to make a difference."

April 6 marks the next Women in Pharmaceutical Industry Club meeting, which will feature a career advice session and elections for club leadership for the fall semester.

The April 27 meeting will feature guest speaker Ms. Anu Hans, Vice President of Global Procurement at theJanssen Supply Group, a division of Johnson & Johnson.