Gayatri Anand, R&D engineer at Honeywell (United States), primarily works on projects related to sustainability and end-of-life of materials that are used in pharmaceutical packaging…
Q: Tell us about your current work profile?
I am currently working at Honeywell as a R&D Engineer/Scientist II. I primarily work on projects related to sustainability and end of life of materials. The business I support makes PCTFE polymer which is used as a barrier layer material in pharmaceutical packaging. My work is to study what happens to the materials after it’s lifecycle is completed in pharma. What are the effects of landfilling, incinerating or what other waste management techniques can be used for these type of materials. Could a recycling program work with these materials, what would that look like, would it be mechanical or chemical/advanced recycling? These are the problems I solve in my current role.
Q: How did you plan to get into such an offbeat career?
My internships carved my path. During my masters, I had the opportunity to intern as a Materials Intern at Velcro Industries, studying applications of hook and loop fasteners in the healthcare and aerospace industry. The applications I was working on for the aerospace industry was to develop a fire-resistant adhesive system which would be applied on the hook and loop fasteners for various parts in the aircraft like luggage carriers. For the healthcare segment, I was working on developing the right base substrate for the fasteners for blood pressure cuff applications. My last internship was at Trexel Inc in which I studied the injection molding process and what intricate cell structures look like. All these experiences were very beneficial to me and I learnt about very different applications of polymers and plastics and this opened up my options. I got all my internships and roles because of networking! I truly believe in the power of social. I was able to connect with students and professionals, talk to them about their experiences and recommendations and used that to find these positions.
Q: How did you get your first break?
Networking! I reached out to the network of my professors to see if anyone was hiring for an internship opportunity. Luckily there was one availability and I successfully interviewed and the rest is history! While I was in the second year of my MS programme, I came across Solvay. Solvay is a multinational chemical company with various divisions. I worked for the Specialty Polymers division as a Customer Technical Development Engineer. In this role, I was the customer facing application development engineer supporting the Healthcare and Consumer Goods market. I helped customers with material selection, processing support and troubleshooting for failures.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Moving to a new country is always a challenge. There are social and cultural differences that need to be overcome. Beyond that, there were major differences in the education system in India and the US. Getting used to that took some time. I learnt to be independent and ask for help when needed. Maintaining timelines with school work, assignments, exams, projects, internships, on campus jobs was a challenge as well. I got into the habit of diligent scheduling and breaking down tasks into small milestones.
Q: How does your work benefit society?
I feel every company has a corporate responsibility and every individual has a personal responsibility to work on sustainability. My work benefits society because I am researching and developing techniques to manage the polymers that have already been produced and study the effects of various current technologies of waste management.
Q: Your advice to students based on your experience?
Leverage your natural skills and instincts! Play to your strengths rather than focusing on your weaknesses. You are on your own timelines.