This feature story originally appeared in the KGI Annual Report, which is linked here.
As a bioprocessing scientist, Sarah Sine, MEng ’18, is involved in production and process optimization for Cell Care Therapeutics, contributing to the company’s development of stem cell–derived therapies for inflammatory neurovascular diseases.
“They first took me on as an intern, based on my bioprocessing experience. From that day, they wanted to keep me,” says Sine.
She felt the same about working at Cell Care Therapeutics. After graduating from KGI with a Master of Engineering (MEng) in Biopharmaceutical Processing degree, Sine joined the company full-time.
“The therapy is very new and innovative, which drew me to it,” she explains. “I really enjoy what I do now and am where I’m supposed to be. I get to do science, and my voice matters. Every aspect of the job fits me very well.”
Yet back in 2016, Sine had a brand-new bachelor’s degree in biology from West Virginia University, a desire to work in the biopharmaceutical industry, and no idea how to achieve this career goal. Then she decided to come to KGI for the MEng program.
“I didn’t even know what a bioreactor was when I got here,” she recalls. “I chose the program because it was technical.”
“After being in the program, I wanted to go into bioprocessing development. The lab is my happy place, and that’s where you do the work.”
Sine was like many students who enter the MEng program, says Parviz Shamlou, George B. and Joy Rathmann Professor and director of the MEng program and Amgen Bioprocessing Center at KGI. Positions in bioprocessing and biomanufacturing are growing, but few academic programs are available to prepare students for them. KGI’s MEng program fills that gap, offering students with undergraduate degrees in engineering and the life sciences the technical skills, scientific knowledge, industry exposure, and mentoring and networking opportunities they need.
“Within two years, our students transform completely, to professionals who can design and run bioreactors and launch biopharmaceutical products. The transformation is amazing,” says Shamlou.
He points to Sine as a clear example. Shamlou taught Sine in several courses and also served as mentor and advisor for her Team Master’s Project (TMP) sponsored by Gilead Sciences. He praises the quality of her work, technical growth, and enthusiasm for the field.
“She fit the program exceptionally,” says Shamlou, whom Sine considers her most influential professor because of his passion for bioprocessing as well as his extensive industry knowledge and experience.
Sine found another mentor in KGI PhD student Andrew Burns, whose research focuses on developing a scalable bioreactor for the growth of human cells. She wanted to work with human stem cells and ended up assisting Burns in the lab for more than a year, helping him with stem cell scaling and the bioreactor. She also contributed ideas of her own that he is now testing.
“Aside from being really smart and tenacious, she enjoyed being in a lab, which made it easy to teach her,” says Burns. “I taught her to culture human stem cells, and that’s what she does now in her job. She’s already helping her company design things that even I can’t comprehend.”
Shamlou believes Sine is just getting started. He anticipates many accomplishments ahead for her, with Cell Care Therapeutics and throughout her career.
“Sarah will reach high and go far,” predicts Shamlou. “As the company grows, she will grow with it. She already has someone reporting to her because of her knowledge and skills. I have no doubt that she will reach a senior position in a relatively short time.”