Alumni Spotlight: Wenli Liang, Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Now an associate scientist II at Biogen in Cambridge, MA, Liang reflects on her time at MCPHS, where she says she gained the skills and knowledge she would need to thrive in her future career.
During her time as a student at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), Wenli Liang, BS/MS in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, was focused on gaining the skills and knowledge she would need to thrive in her future career.
Now an associate scientist II at Biogen in Cambridge, MA, Liang works as a process chemist within the chemical process development group.
It’s a role she was prepared for at MCPHS, where she completed three organic chemistry research projects under the mentorship of Songwen Xie, PhD, of the School of Arts and Sciences. She also applied her skills in internships at Enanta Pharmaceuticals and Biogen during her time at MCPHS.
Originally from Guangdong, China, Liang was drawn to MCPHS because of the University’s location in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area, a location she believes is ideal for aspiring health sciences professionals. As a student, she was highly involved on the Boston campus, serving as founder and president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, a supplemental instruction leader for organic chemistry, and a Brain Cell in the Admission office.
We sat down with Liang to hear more about her experience in the Pharmaceutical Chemistry program.
Why did you choose the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry / Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Chemistry (Dual Degree) program?
I have long been interested in chemistry because I find it very applicable to daily life. I can find a lot of chemistry knowledge in some household tricks, for example. The program at MCPHS is a BS/MS program, in which I could get both a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in five years with an internship. I thought that would be very beneficial in terms of completing courses and getting industry experience in a short time.
What type of student would thrive in your program?
A student who would thrive in this program is someone who is interested in the course material, including hands-on experiments, and is detail-oriented and persistent.
What was your favorite course you took at MCPHS? Why?
My favorite course at MCPHS was Pharmaceutical Chemistry, taught by Dr. Xie. This is because this course teaches not only chemistry knowledge but also the timeline of pharmaceutical products. It is a great course to help you start learning about the pharmaceutical industry.
Who is your favorite professor? Why?
Dr. Xie! Dr. Xie is the program director of the BS/MS program. In class, she breaks down very difficult course material into smaller pieces and then connects the pieces. With this approach, I was able to learn very challenging material a little more easily. Also, she gave me the opportunity to do research with her and encouraged me to participate in professional organizations and conferences and to network with people. She gave me honest and valuable advice.
Tell us about any placements, clinical internships, and/or research opportunities that you completed during your time at MCPHS.
I completed three organic chemistry research projects with Dr. Xie, including my graduate research. I also completed two internships, one as a research intern at Enanta Pharmaceuticals and one as a summer intern at Biogen.
How did these opportunities help prepare you for your current career?
The research experience I gained has been invaluable. When I was looking for internships and jobs, that’s what I talked about with my interviewers.
Chemists are interested in what students have done, and they like to hear about some of the challenges you faced, and give advice. Now, I am able to talk to people in the industry about the work that I’ve done at school and share my own advice.
What is your job now?
My current role is associate scientist II at Biogen in Cambridge, MA. I work as a process chemist in the chemical process development group.
What is a typical day like in your job?
In a typical day in my job, I plan and run reactions, take in-process control samples, and analyze the results. I learn from experiments to study the effect of each reaction parameter on the yield and purity profile to optimize a chemical process.
What are your future career aspirations? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would like to explore more in the industry and sharpen my technical skills. I want to earn an industrial PhD and be very good at what I am doing in 10 years.
Why did you choose MCPHS?
The BS/MS Pharmaceutical Chemistry program at MCPHS is a great program, and it allowed me to earn both a BS and an MS in just five years. The location of the University also is good because Boston is known to be a biotech center.
What was the most valuable aspect of your MCPHS education?
MCPHS provided me with a very comprehensive school experience. I was able to get very involved in different departments at the University, including the Admission office, the Center for Academic Success and Enrichment, and many student clubs and organizations. It was a very welcoming environment.
Which MCPHS resource was most valuable to you during your time at the University?
I used the Center for Academic Success and Enrichment. Since I am an international student, I needed help from the writing center.
What’s your favorite #MCPHSmoment?
ClamBQ! I enjoyed lobster and outdoor activities with my lovely schoolmates.
What is your biggest piece of advice for current MCPHS students?
My biggest piece of advice is to talk to your professors frequently. Our professors have been in the field, and they know about a lot of options in the field that students might have never heard of. It could open your eyes!
The Bachelor of Science in Chemistry / Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Chemistry (Dual Degree) program at MCPHS gives students the opportunity to work alongside professional experts in modern laboratories to gain experience in biotechnology techniques and learn the principles of drug design and mechanisms of action.