How to Succeed in Industrial Pharmacy: an Expert Q&A

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By Toni Critelli

In this Q&A, Dr. Gupta shares insights and advice for success in the pharmaceutical industry after more than eight years of experience.

The journey of Simerdeep Singh Gupta ’10GP, ’14Ph.D., exemplifies how education, passion, and dedication can lead to great success in the pharmaceutical industry. After earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in Mumbai, India, he attended St. John’s University in Queens, NY, where he earned a master’s and a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences focusing on Industrial Pharmacy.

After completing his academic studies, Dr. Gupta joined Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. as a Product Development Scientist. He worked his way up to his current position as Associate Director, where he oversees pharmaceutical product development.

What motivated you to pursue a master’s and Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a focus in Industrial Pharmacy at St. John’s University?

When I was considering universities, St. John’s stood out because of its proximity to the pharmaceutical industry. The University is in the heart of the pharmaceutical world, with everything going on within about a 50-mile driving distance.

St. John’s offers more than just proximity to the pharmaceutical industry. Their industrial pharmacy program is unique; few universities worldwide offer it. Other universities provide pharmaceutics or pharmacology, but industrial pharmacy combines pharmaceutical sciences and processing or engineering, which is an excellent fit for someone wanting to enter the pharmaceutical industry.

Could you share a pivotal moment from your time at St. John’s that significantly influenced your career path?

The research itself. Upon arriving at St. John’s, I intended to complete a nonthesis master’s degree and transition out. However, a pivotal moment occurred when Emilio Squillante III, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, invited me to his lab and asked if I was interested in conducting additional research.

This experience, more than coursework, played a transformative role in shaping my career trajectory. Beyond the confines of traditional learning, engaging in research proved critical for anyone aspiring to thrive in the dynamic landscape of the pharmaceutical industry.

Starting as a scientist and advancing to Associate Director of Product Development, what factors contributed to your ongoing success?

In my journey, I’ve found several factors to be crucial. 

Firstly, being available to take on challenges and execute tasks is essential. While some scientists may excel in their field, they may need help completing tasks or assisting others. However, there are exceptional scientists who not only meet their jobs but also offer support to others.

Secondly, it is crucial to gain practical experience as a scientist. Working on as many projects as possible can provide valuable work experience and help one move up quickly. However, soft skills are equally important and often lacking in pharmaceutical scientists. Scientists can attend webinars, seminars, or certification courses to improve their soft skills, including communication, leadership, teamwork, and networking.

Lastly, networking is essential, and scientists should be curious and learn what is happening in other departments, such as marketing or business development. This knowledge can help them understand how their work contributes to the organization’s success.

What does career progression in the industrial pharmacy industry look like?

In the pharmaceutical industry, as a scientist, you usually start by working on specific tasks related to a particular project. As you gain more experience and demonstrate the ability to handle a project independently, you are given a project to develop a formulation and product. With time and more experience, you can take on multiple projects, even bigger ones.

This is the progression in the industry. When a scientist shows progress in developing and managing multiple products or projects simultaneously, they are responsible for managing other scientists. This is the position I currently hold.

Can you walk us through a day in the life of an Associate Director of pharmaceutical product development?

As an Associate Director, I manage various scientific aspects of diverse projects and oversee scientists working on those projects. This dual responsibility encapsulates the multifaceted nature of my role.

My daily routine starts at 4:30 a.m., a habit I have maintained since my grad school days. I begin my day with a morning workout and then head to the office, where I prioritize my daily tasks. I allocate time for daily, weekly, and monthly goals by creating a task list with assigned priorities. This structured approach allows me to efficiently manage my responsibilities while accommodating any unexpected tasks that may arise during the day.

What advice or encouragement would you give aspiring Pharmaceutical Sciences students?

Embarking on a career path in pharmacy, especially in the dynamic pharmaceutical industry landscape, demands a strategic and multifaceted approach. To aspiring industrial pharmacy students, I offer the following guidance:

  • Perform your tasks with skill and utmost attention: In a world that often celebrates multitasking, it’s crucial to emphasize the value of focused attention. While the ability to juggle multiple tasks may seem advantageous, concentrating on one study at a time and giving it your full attention is paramount. Quality often surpasses quantity, and dedicating focused effort to each task can yield more meaningful results.
  • Have a thorough understanding of your field of study: Whether conducting research or engaging in practical applications, strive to become the foremost expert on the subject or topic. Mastery of your field enhances your competence and positions you as a valuable contributor. Stay curious and delve into the intricacies of your chosen domain.
  • Seek internships and practical experience: Theoretical knowledge forms the foundation, but practical experience adds a layer of invaluable insight. Internships provide a firsthand understanding of industry dynamics, allowing you to bridge the gap between academia and real-world applications. Even if the experience may not align directly with your desired role, it contributes to a holistic understanding of the industry.
  • Stay informed about industry trends: While formal education imparts the basics and historical context, staying abreast of industry trends is equally crucial. Magazines, blogs, websites, and pharmaceutical company publications are treasure troves of insights into emerging trends. This knowledge gives you a forward-looking perspective, making you a more adaptable and informed professional.
  • Networking is crucial: In the past, students often confined their networking efforts to peers and professors. However, in today’s interconnected world, networking with professionals in the industry is indispensable. Establishing a professional profile on platforms like LinkedIn and actively contacting industry experts broadens your network. Engage in conversations, seek mentorship, and cultivate relationships beyond your immediate academic circle.
  • Never stop learning and growing: Pursuing knowledge should be a lifelong endeavor. Consider pursuing further education by earning a higher degree, such as a master’s or Ph.D., if your aspirations lie in the scientific realm. Even if you’ve attained these degrees, continuous learning remains vital. Enroll in certification courses, learn new skills, and strive to add a new dimension to your expertise each year. This keeps your mind agile and positions you as a proactive contributor to your evolving field.


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Toni Critelli

Digital Content Creator

Toni Critelli is a full-time staff writer for Johnnie's Blog. Through engaging content, she captures the essence of the institution, its students, faculty, and alums.