Talk with Hana Ahmetspahic (Master Student)

This week we got a chance to have a conversation with a MSc student, Hana Ahmetspahic. She is currently a student of MSc.Eng in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at Technical University of Denmark with focus on Process and Product Engineering and is planned to graduate in summer of 2022. Earlier, she has done her B.Eng in Chemical and Bioengineering from DTU and finished it mid-february in 2020 with impressive results and broad in-depth knowledge of the field.

Apart from studying for a challenging degree, she is also currently working as a Student Assistant at Novo Nordisk. Novo Nordisk is the biggest company of Denmark and well-known pioneers within the pharmaceutical industry. Therefore, no doubt, Hana is a competent engineer, who is learning from the best of the field. It is thus not wrong to say, that she does not only have the theoretical knowledge, but instead also has the hand-on experience.

As mentioned, she is currently studying for her MSc. with focus on Process and Product Engineering. Hence, she is a competent student with a bright future. And we were lucky to get an interview with her to talk about her education and experience. Read the article below to learn more about her experience in chemical engineering and her experience of working at Novo Nordisk.

MSc. Experience

As mentioned, Hana is currently studying MSc. in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, and therefore we started by asking her about her education.

How was the workload of your degree? What did you spend most time on?

The first year of studying for my bachelor’s degree was not as difficult as I expected. This might be because I had feared that the first year would be the most difficult, and therefore I studied every single day. However, I found the second year more challenging as more technical courses were introduced.

Due to my current student job, I have chosen to extend my master by one semester. This means that I have fewer courses per semester and therefore I can enjoy my years as a student more. It is important for me to really enjoy this stage of my life as a student instead of considering my education as a phase that should “just be completed” . I spend a lot of time writing notes on my spare time and especially reading and preparing for exams.

People confuse Chemical Engineering with pure Chemistry. So is there a lot of chemistry in your engineering curriculum?

The first two years of my bachelor’s we had various chemical courses such as organic chemistry, physical chemistry, general chemistry, etc. Afterwards the focus changed to process engineering in chemical productions. Today my focus areas are more in the development and process control in a chemical production whereas general chemical is basic knowledge.

ChemE is considered to be a tough degree, so in your experience, what topics did you find the most difficult?

The most difficult course I have had so far is “Mathematical modelling and analysis for chemical and Biochemical systems”. I found performing and understanding the mathematical modelling in chemical processes were difficult and therefore I spent a lot of time understanding and working on this subject.

What line did you choose to focus during your degree?

During my bachelor's degree I did not have the chance to choose a study line or focus area. The courses were therefore very different and more general about chemical and biochemical engineering. On my master's I have chosen to focus on process and product engineering, as I find the larger scale production and the various final purification steps very interesting.

Did you get your degree from your home country or did you go abroad?

I got my bachelor’s degree in my home country, Denmark. I had originally planned to study abroad in Florida, US, for a semester. However, due to the pandemic my trip was cancelled.

Did you have student jobs during or between your education? How did you get them and did they help your education?

I got my current student job during my first semester on my master’s degree. During my bachelor's I worked in a medical distribution company. I didn’t work in a student position (but more administrative position) but I still got the opportunity to work in a company within the pharma industry. When I started studying for my master’s degree, I was dedicated to find a more student-related job and applied to various companies. My current student job is at Novo Nordisk, which has given me the opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge from my studies to the real world and has taught me a lot and given me much more knowledge. My student job has also given me a drive and motivation for my study which sometimes can be quite heavy to get through. I have also gained a much greater insight into the challenges and obstacles that can occur under a chemical production.

Work Experience from Student Job

Hana is currently working as a Student at Novo Nordisk, who are the pioneers within the pharmaceutical industry.

Which industry do you work in and at what role?

I work in the pharmaceutical industry and have worked there for almost a year. I work as a Student Assistant at Novo Nordisk. It is a global healthcare company that discovers and manufactures medical treatments for people living with diabetes and other serious chronic diseases.

What is your daily work routine like? What do you do at your job?

I normally work twice weekly at Novo Nordisk. Each shift typically begins with a status meeting with my team where we talk about the different goals or challenges we have faced in the last week.

Then the day depends a lot on what kind of tasks I get. Since I work in a data management team, my typical tasks consist of processing data, as well as participating in internal meetings with different departments. Lately I have been involved in implementing a new visualization setup of the data from our production which has given me the opportunity to interact with different departments and learn how new things are being implemented in such a big company.

What are the typical tasks which you have to deal with?

My typical tasks are agreeing and making sure the data visualization meet the expectations the different departments have for the daily monitoring. In addition, I help my team with other ad hoc tasks that arise along the way.

Your job is really relevant to what you are studying, so which topics from your degree do you use the most on the workplace?

I would definitely say that it’s knowledge from my process engineering courses that has benefited me the most. In addition, I also use my knowledge from GMP, programming and various process engineering calculations.

Your job sounds really interesting. What hard and soft skills are the most important for your job?

I would say that the soft skills are communication, time management such as managing appointments and scheduling, responsibility and openness.

As for the hard skills, it is especially coding, computer programming, Big Data Engineering skills as Excel, computer science and data visualization.

Your job sounds really interesting and you seem to really enjoy working therefore. If you had to pick, what do you think is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is definitely working with such professional strong employees who give me a drive to absorb all the learning that I receive from them. I am also very happy to get tasks where I see that my work and results have a great value and influence on everyday data management. In addition, the best thing is that I have gained a completely unique insight to what my future workplace could look like and what tasks I can expect to work with. Also, I love working at Novo Nordisk as it’s a dynamic and exciting company with many opportunities for especially students.

How easy was it for you to change company and/or jobs if any?

In my case I got the student job relatively quickly after I started searching. However, I know students who are still applying for student jobs. It can be quite difficult to find a student job in this industry, as it seems that there are fewer jobs being posted for chemical engineering students than in other industries.

What are you future plans for your career?

My short-term plans are definitely to graduate, then I will apply for jobs within the process engineering area. My current student job has given me knowledge in data management and boosted my CV. I hope to stay at Novo Nordisk after I have completed my master's.

Any suggestions for future graduates? Something they should be doing while they are still in university getting their degree.

I would recommend students to apply for courses that make your professional profile different from others. It can be courses like, GMP, Coding and Programming, or courses focusing on green chemistry or business. This will give you a wider knowledge and will also be beneficial for your CV.

What skills should they focus on during university years? I would recommend practicing in public speaking as this is an important skill in almost all departments and teams. I would also recommend practicing being a team player with team skills such as communication, collaboration and adaptability as working efficiently in a team is crucial.
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