By Elexis Baltimore, Editor
Welcome back to the McKendree Graduate Series! With graduation slowly creeping its way around the corner, we at the McK Review want to showcase the endless possibilities after graduating from McKendree. Graduation can sometimes become daunting, as some of us are trying to combat the “what happens next” questions and balance job searches and finals. However, as these McK Alumni will tell you, everything will be alright! So buckle in and listen to what our next graduate Neil Berkel has to say!
Neil Berkel began his undergraduate career at Lewis and Clark Community College as a chemistry student and tennis player. “I started with chemistry at LC because I enjoy math, but I didn’t want to do just math,” he said. Laughing, he continued: “but now there’s so much to love about the subject. Most people would probably disagree!” After finishing his associate’s, Neil transferred to McKendree where he majored in chemistry and continued playing tennis.
Two years later, Neil graduated from McKendree with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. Afterwards, he had originally decided to pursue his Ph.D. and would have been attending the University of Notre Dame. “Shortly after being there,” he explained, “I changed my mind and decided to get a master’s degree in physical chemistry instead.” During his time in the master’s program, Neil was a computational chemist – “someone who never went into the lab.” This, however, would change when Neil accepted his first job in 2017 as a Production Chemist for Millipore Sigma in St. Louis.
“When I had graduated from McK, I was set on a Ph.D., and that has obviously changed. And even when I got my first job, it wasn’t what I would’ve thought I’d be doing. I was a computational chemist in grad school – someone that never went into the lab. Now I’m in the lab almost everyday. I love my job, but it was definitely not what I would’ve thought I’d be doing.”
So what is Neil doing now? In 2017, Neil married Merrilee, another McKendree graduate. He is now a Senior Associate Production Scientist, working in a group making customer processes. Which, if you are anything like me, you may have no idea what this entails! Well, ladies and gents, I got that answer for you!
Neil explained that it is possible that a company would come to them and pay them to make one of their products. They then produce the product and sell it as the original companies; some may think of it as a contractor or an outside vendor. As one of the technical leads in the group, he is often given some of the more complex processes.
“The group primarily makes buffers, ranging from <1L to about 12,000L,” Neil explained. “Some of us, including me, will run chromatography columns using AKTA’s…other groups around me are immunology, cell lines, and molecular biology. So we’re a Biotech building.” His job also includes updating procedures and investigating why a product did not pass quality control tests.
When asked what advice Neil has for graduates he said, “Keep your mind open. The job you may get might not be exactly what you have in mind. But if you keep an open mind, you may find you like that job even better that you would’ve thought.”