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Hope Students Collaborate With Pfizer Inc.

Hope Engineering student Radika Rupasinghe prepares to film a flowrate test.

HOLLAND – Pfizer Inc., a major pharmaceutical company, operates a pharmaceutical sciences pilot plant in Holland which began to have trouble with the feeding process of its reaction vessels. Due to previous beneficial interactions with the engineering and physics departments of Hope College, the Pfizer employees decided to set the problem before the senior students and faculty and see what they could do.

In the past, a funnel-type device had been used to insert a given amount of solid material into the solvent chambers; however, this process was problematic because of the risk of oxygen reacting with the reagents and posing a potential safety hazard. In order to achieve the best possible results, employees had had to go through an inconvenient and time-consuming process. The students and faculty of Hope’s engineering and physics departments worked to create a system that would deliver various types of solid material at various federates to the reaction chambers while maintaining a safe and inert environment.

The students, led by professors John Krupczak, Roger Veldman and Michael Misovich, searched for equipment providers who could satisfy the demands of the project. Thanks to constant communication with Pfizer consultants Jennifer Moon and Wade Beck, the students narrowed the supplier list from 130 companies to 2. “The students drafted the designs on campus,” says Krupczak. “Design mockups and prototypes were constructed at Hope and then brought to the pilot plant for review by Pfizer staff. Upon approval, the suppliers did the custom engineering at their facilities and sent us the equipment for installation.”

The project was successful due to the extensive communication between the student team, Pfizer staff members, and the supplier companies.