Having a positive impact on people’s lives

They had a good time studying the Process and Food Technology programme and now they have a job to be envied. Joeri Langelaar, David Broekhuijsen and Anna van Ginkel are working at pharmaceutical company Janssen Biologics Leiden. As a global health company, Janssen sees it as its responsibility to sustainably improve the health and well-being of all the people in the world. Janssen is the company where the COVID vaccine has been developed, but David, Anna and Joeri were not directly involved, since they work for another department. Our graduates are happy to be part of the passionate Janssen family and have no plans to look for a job elsewhere. Within Janssen, people have every opportunity to develop a dream career.

Endless possibilities at this company

Joeri always said that he wanted to work in a lab and not for a pharmaceutical company. But when he got the opportunity to work at Janssen in 2018, he seized it with both hands. “The possibilities are endless at this company!” As a maintenance engineer, he is responsible for the reliability of several assets, such as gas and fermentation equipment. A workday can consist of start-up meeting with the technicians, processing work orders in the maintenance management systems, project work with a focus on maintainability and reliability, life cycle management, field work (for troubleshooting), and safety walk-arounds. 

Two sides of the same coin

For Anna too, before starting the PFT programme, the pharma industry was the last place she wanted to work. “I did not know what to think of “big pharma”, it has a big stigma. But during my internship, I saw that there are two sides to every coin. You hear more background stories and can understand why pharmaceuticals are expensive. As an ass. maintenance engineer, she makes sure the small equipment is kept functioning and reliable. When a breakdown occurs, she ensures it is solved and repaired before her colleagues need it again. Besides that, she participates in weekly meetings with colleagues from other sites about projects aiming to improve maintenance strategies and introduce new technologies. “That way, we stay connected and share best practices”. What she enjoys most about working at Janssen are the many opportunities for growth: “Everybody wants you to succeed and is willing to help”.

Being hired during an internship

David did his graduation internship in the department he is still in. At the end of his internship in 2016, he got the chance to apply for a new position, and he ended up being hired! David: “It meant that my internship ended on a Friday and my job started the following Monday, so I took a day off to attend the graduation ceremony. Haha! But I am incredibly happy with how everything turned out”. Right now, he is a process engineer focusing on process equipment and upstream processing. His working days are a combination of desk work, meeting with a lot of people and going to the production areas. Most of the work is oriented around technical details, data, troubleshooting, designing, making agreements and much more.

Collaboration is the key word

According to the website: “At Janssen, we believe that collaboration is the key to innovation and solving the medical problems of our time”. Does David notice that? Yes, and he thinks it’s incredible. He collaborates with countless departments, hundreds of people, in multiple countries. Most of his colleagues are extremely hardworking and passionate about what they do. David: “Since first starting here at Janssen I really noticed the ‘family’ feel, which says a lot about the company”. Joeri confirms that it’s the Janssen credo that they live and breathe: “Collaboration with multiple stakeholders is a key word for maintenance. We do everything to continue producing our medicine for patients”. Another collaboration is with PFT. At any given moment, Janssen has at least one PFT intern in the maintenance department working on interesting topics to optimise facilities. “The innovative ideas students contribute are really valuable”, Anna adds.

PFT programme provides a good technical basis

Has the PFT programme been useful for the job you currently have? No doubt about that. Overall, it provided a good technical basis and insight into all the possibilities for a career after PFT. Anna: “I learned a new way of thinking. Also, since English is the main language in many industries, I am taking advantage of the experience I gained in the PFT environment”. David: “Being able to work in projects with so many different cultures also meant that I have had a much easier time in all of the projects during my working life, it was so valuable!” Joeri adds: “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but one of the most useful subjects was SCI! Every year we have to set new SMART goals and objectives for ourselves. So, thank you, Farah, for the lessons”. 

Sweet memories of the PFT programme

Looking back on the study period at the PFT programme, David and Joeri mention the nice teachers, the international aspect, the cool events, the intro camp. David: “I always enjoyed the nice people and teachers at PFT. The events were always so much fun. I also really liked seeing all the companies that we visited up close, that gave such a good picture of what I was getting myself into. Seeing the huge factories really excited me and I knew I had made the right choice”. 

Of course, Joeri has his own memories: “This programme is a relatively small study, where you are not a number. The teachers actually know you by name. The topics are difficult from time to time  but also challenging and fun. You got to make beer, cheese and chemicals during projects. During my time there, we also had PFT parties, drinks and BBQs every now and then. The fact that PFT is an international study is a real advantage. You get to know other cultures and after three weeks you don’t even notice that you are talking in English. I’ve had multiple occasions where I started talking English to my Dutch classmates without realising. I also liked the fact that we had a course committee where students could get their voice heard”.

Anna especially enjoyed the involvement of the teachers: “They are really interested in the students and are willing to help you if you need it”. She would like to advise new students not to be scared away if something looks difficult. Just take a step back and talk to your peers and the teacher, and everything will be just fine. Being able to see a lot of companies during the programme was so interesting. Anna: “But the absolute highlight was the intro camp. Don’t miss it”. 

Drinking beer with fellow graduates

David and Joeri are still in contact with fellow students. Joeri: “I definitely am! To start with, I have three colleagues who are PFT graduates. Every so often, I brew beer with Dennis, and we are taking it up a notch. We ordered a 30L vessel! Before the COVID situation we also had a monthly get-together over drinks with fellow graduates in The Hague”.

A life-altering choice

Those who are considering signing up for the PFT programme, please read David’s warning: “If you decide to become an engineer, be aware that it is a life-altering choice. You are about to make an impact and it means that you will probably be more involved with your work more than you thought. If you want to make an awesome career you certainly can. Just take in as much as you can of the material that comes your way and you will make it happen. By going this route, you will have an actual impact on the things around you, which is awesome”. 

Read more about the Process and Food Technology programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences:

PFT 3-year programme

PFT 4-year programme


What does Janssen Biologics do?

Joeri: “Within Janssen Biologics we produce monoclonal antibodies. These are medicines to combat the symptoms of chronic diseases such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatism to give our patients a life “without” pain. Upstream we produce said medicines by means of continuous and fed-batch fermentation, starting from a frozen vial containing a small number of cells and up-scaled through 20L, 50L, 100L and eventually 500L bioreactors. Downstream we make use of several chromatography, centrifugation and filtration steps to purify our medicine from the bioreactors’ “soup”.

Furthermore, we have several support departments collaborating coherently together to produce the medicine and ultimately release it for use. Consider departments such as buffer and media preparation, as well as equipment preparation, quality assurance departments, product testing laboratories and a vast number of utilities.

Besides that, we also have the engineering, automation and maintenance departments to reliably manage our assets together with the production engineers.”