Since childhood, chemical engineering junior Chris Stevens has enjoyed building model planes with his father. Their pastime has led to entering national competitions where they have put their planes through elaborate flight patterns against experienced competitors. Yet, Chris explains that the planes he and his dad fly were once pieces in a box. When it comes to building a model plane, there are no shortcuts; one must start with the first step and methodically proceed through all of the steps until it the plane is completed. Such an approach does wonders for cultivating patience.
Patience is a virtue Chris will need for the line of work he plans to enter: developing new drug formulations or drug delivery systems for a pharmaceutical company. “Drugs take years to develop, get approved and get into circulation,” says Chris. “If I’m working at the start of clinical trials, it could be five or six years before the drug even gets to manufacturing. If I’m actually formulating the drug, it could be up to a decade before it sees the shelf. But I believe I have the kind of patience necessary for that kind of wait,” he says.
Chris, a Lexington native, planned on a pharmacy career while still in high school, partly due to having pharmacists in his extended family; his grandfather was a pharmacist, as is an aunt. However, Chris doesn’t envision standing behind a counter and filling prescriptions. Rather, he is enrolled in the chemical engineering’s biopharmaceutical track, which allows him to take classes within the College of Pharmacy. “I like the research side of engineering,” he says. “I believe that my chemical engineering major with the biopharmaceutical track will make me a marketable candidate for pharmaceutical research and development positions, whereas had I gone strictly gone into the College of Pharmacy, I would have limited my options.”
As a high school student considering different universities with pharmacy programs, Chris attended Engineers Day (E-Day) on the UK Lexington campus. After discovering the biopharmaceutical track within the College of Engineering, he decided to enroll. Because he had obtained advanced placement credit, he was able to take the Process and Principles class (normally taken during a chemical engineering student’s second year) and join the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering—a national students organization that connects undergraduate and graduate students with engineers, research advisors and companies.
During the summer of 2011, Chris took an internship at Patheon Pharmaceutics, where he helped with drug formulations. “It was a great experience. I was able to work with a lot of pharmaceutical equipment professional engineers use—large and small scale. They had 75 liter drums at Patheon; I think I could live in one of those,” he quips.
With one year before graduation, Chris is planning on attending graduate school to earn a Ph.D. before heading into a career in pharmaceutical research and development. “Eventually, I would like to close out my career by becoming a professor,” he declares. “After many years of being in the industry, I’d like to teach young engineers interested in the biopharmaceutical industry.”
Such plans, of course, are far off. For now, Chris will concentrate on completing his undergraduate degree…and apply to graduate schools…and pursue the next degree—patiently building his career in the same way he builds model planes.