Monday, December 12, 2011

Q & A with Savannah Frank, AU Biology Alumna and Quality Engineer at MillerCoors

Biology graduate Savannah Frank recently answered some of our questions about her career path since graduating in 2009. We plan to post similar stories about other science alumni in the future, so keep checking back.

Describe your experiences while a student of the science program here at Ashland University.

My experience while in the science program was extremely intriguing and hands-on. I credit this to the small class size and passionate professors and faculty that placed a great deal of emphasis on interaction with their students. The wide variety of course options only increased my love for the sciences and really helped me gain a broad yet in depth knowledge of the scientific world. While at Ashland, I developed longstanding relationships with my fellow classmates as well as professors that I still keep in touch with.

What is your present occupation? What types of things do you do in your work? What interesting projects or significant achievements have you been part of?

I work for MillerCoors as a Quality Engineer in the Trenton, Ohio brewery. Our laboratory is split up into two different work groups, Product Release and Fermentation. Both work groups utilize analytical as well as microbiological skill sets and knowledge. We test from the beginning of the process as the raw materials come into the plant, all the way through the finished product in the bottle or can. While working in the Quality Department, we support a brewing projects as far as new recipes, new malt, new hops and so on. By far, the most interesting part of my position is being a Certified Taste Tester. The beer is tasted at four points throughout the brewing process and each individual tank is tasted before we release it to consumers. I also just completed a certification course and am now a Certified Brewer, and represented our department at the industry-wide conference in Minneapolis.

What role did your education at AU play in your seeking out your current occupation?

My education at AU was extremely diversified in terms of the subjects studied. During the interview process at MillerCoors, my interviewers were impressed at how well our Biology and Chemistry Departments worked together and utilized one another.

What advice do you have for current AU science majors?

Take advantage of classes that provide exposure to analytical instrumentation such as HPLCs, Gas Chromatography, pH meters, spectrophotometry, etc. Along with an arsenal of microbiological knowledge, having these combined skill sets is a definite crowd pleaser with hiring departments. Also take advantage of research opportunities with the great faculty at AU. These types of projects really help to hone in on your independent work skills that will benefit you in the long run.

What career advice can you give to future graduates of the AU science program?

Firstly, NETWORK! I got my first laboratory position before graduation because I was simply talking about my education while sitting in a restaurant. It really helps to talk to people about what your career and life goals are. Secondly, prepare for interviews. My advice is to sit down and actually write out your responses to the most common interview questions. Know your weaknesses and strengths, be able to explain some difficult situations you have been and how you've handled it. I felt that when I would go over my interview questions the night before, I would communicate more freely and not be stumbling for words because I already knew what I wanted to say. The interviewer has your resume in front of them (most likely), you don't want to just repeat what they already know. Have stories fresh in your brain so that you keep their attention, making it more of a conversation rather than an interrogation.

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