Sunday, January 29, 2012

Last but not least part of Plant Trek - Amgen and Puerto Rico

I must say that the previous posts did not cover the entirety of our Plant Trek visits.  One company that I have yet to mention, but who hosted us in lovely Juncos, Puerto Rico was Amgen, one of LGO's partners in the pharma industry.  They hosted us for the whole day and had a well organized set of tours and panels to help us learn more about the company and then get to ask questions about what we had seen.

Over lunch, the VP of Site Operations, Esteban Santos, turned the roles around and asked us what the most high tech company we visited on Plant Trek was.  Many of us said Boeing since their products have to fly or Dell since computers are often what you think of when you think of high tech.  He countered that Amgen was even more high tech than that.  Even though their products are pills or inject-able liquids which are simple to administer, all the processes and development that it takes to get a normal microbial or mammalian cells to produce a specific protein in large enough volumes to make these products is pretty darn high tech when you come to think about it.  He majored in electrical engineering originally, but Amgen was a company that he found to be completely cutting edge.  I hadn't thought about it that way before.  As a visitor you mainly see a lot of tanks and pipes, but don't always think about everything that's going on inside.  Companies that make larger products can seem more impressive because their parts take up so much more space, but Amgen certainly did a lot with their molecules.

Amgen organized tours, Q&A sessions and a quick case study like we often have back at MIT in our weekly Proseminar class and then they had a very nice reception outside for us, complete with food and live music.  It was the end of our trip, the weather was beautiful and we had a wonderful time.  Definitely worth a celebration.

After Plant Trek officially ended, at least three quarters of the class took the opportunity to spend at least a day or two more in Puerto Rico.  Many people rented bigger apartments or houses to split the rent, but other students had their SOs come down so they could have mini vacations together.  We stayed in San Juan (where we had flown into and would fly out of) but took day trips to see all kinds of things.

My two main excursions were to slide down a natural waterslide in the rainforest in Luquillo called Las Paylas (we parked in a man named Carlos's driveway as instructed by the website and my other excursion was to kayak in a bioluminescent bay on the northeast side of the island near the town of Fajardo.  When you put your paddle or hand into the water all these plankton would light up at the disturbance of the water and glow blue!  It was windy that evening, so even the little waves breaking from the wind would light up.  Both outings were very cool and I couldn't have the same experiences anywhere else.

All in all, during our trip around the US (and one of its territories!) we missed the snow that fell on Seattle and the snow that fell in Boston.  I came home to a cold but at least not core-chilling day when it wasn't precipitating.  Things worked out well.  Plant trek has now come and gone, but I will still have lots of memories to last with me.  Thanks to all the companies for hosting us, to the Plant Trek committee for planning and executing the trip so well and to the other students for keeping things fun.  Yay!

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