An alum of the 2012 SMDP Biotech Scholar cohort, Amaris Torres, PhD, is the Process Development Scientist at Amgen. Amaris uses science and engineering to build robust manufacturing processes that consistently deliver safe and efficacious biopharmaceuticals.
I completed a doctorate degree in Biochemistry. During my high school years, I discovered my interest in developing my problem solving & critical thinking skills to make biopharmaceutical drugs. I was eager to learn the science behind the drug development process. This led me to the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, where I completed my bachelor’s degree in Industrial Biotechnology. Right after completing my undergraduate studies, I moved to Boston for the MIT Biology PhD program. My thesis dissertation focused on employing biochemical and biophysical approaches to dissect a molecular mechanism of enzyme inhibition.
Even though my academic training followed a defined path without many twists and turns, every step required persistence, patience and flexibility. Mentors and programs such as SMDP were key in creating and maximizing opportunities along the way.
I work at Amgen, which is a biotechnology company focusing on areas of unmet medical need. Amgen uses science-based innovation and manufacturing expertise to deliver high quality products and services to patients.
I learned about Amgen back when I was in high school. I had relatives who worked at Amgen Puerto Rico (AML). It was because of them that I learned about this career path. They taught me what a career in biopharmaceutical process development looks like and provided guidance on what type of training I should complete in pursue of this career. They always spoke highly about their experience at Amgen, where they worked for a large part of their careers. Since then, I’ve regarded Amgen as one of the best places to develop my career.
One of the things that I appreciate the most is that Amgen lives up to its values, for example, in being science-based. Our decisions, whether they are about a manufacturing strategy, employee safety during COVID or efforts to strengthen diversity, inclusion and belonging, are based on scientific analysis of data. Another aspect which is very important for me is that Amgen strives for the highest standards for delivering quality products to patients. Quality is at the center of our culture and all our activities.
I chose this role because it aligned well with my learning objectives as well as the skills that I bring to the table. From a big picture perspective, I enjoy working on the interface between the process development, manufacturing and regulatory aspects of drug development. In my current role, scientific skills such as critical analysis of data, technical communication and problem-solving by the scientific method are needed to make decisions that ensure we deliver consistent product and process quality. Soft skills such as effective communication, emotional intelligence, decision-making, leadership and collaboration are key for meeting our goals and overcoming challenges, especially in a fast-paced environment.
In the grand scheme of things, I see it as a byproduct of a strong drive to improve (yourself, people or processes) and continuous work towards clearly defined goals (big and small). I approach my career by looking for experiences which will make me a stronger PD scientist, leader and professional while giving me the opportunity to apply the knowledge and perspectives acquired through prior experiences. I feel successful as a professional when I’m continuously learning and expanding my responsibilities.
The most fulfilling aspect is knowing that someday my actions could become a contribution towards improving or even extending someone’s life.
I would advise first-time job seekers to not focus too much on applying for jobs that perfectly match their specialized technical skills if this comes at the expense of not pursuing jobs that feels more interesting and exciting. For my first job I was fortunate to take a position involving activities which I had no experience with but were exactly what I wanted to do as a professional scientist. While not always directly transferable from a technical perspective, my graduate training equipped me with skills which were key in my process of learning on the job while delivering results.
Playing Big, by Tara Mohr.