PharmaFest to offer career paths to ECU students in a variety of programs

The pharmaceutical industry isn’t just for chemists and biologists anymore, and an event at East Carolina University is designed to show just that.

The Eastern Region Pharma Center has scheduled PharmaFest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 18 at the Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building.

The Eastern Region Pharma Center can help students with virtually any major find a career path into the pharmaceutical industry during PharmaFest.

“They do need mechanical engineers. They do need IT people. They do need finance people,” said Dr. Loren Limberis, director of the pharma center. “It’s trying to get over that stigma of pharma. Students think, ‘Well, I’m not a chemist. I’m not a biologist. I’m not an engineer. I don’t belong there, and there’s no work for me there.’ That’s completely opposite of reality. They need everybody. That’s what we’re finding when we look at the job opportunities in these companies.”

Representatives from eight pharmaceutical companies will be on hand to talk to students — whether they’re graduating this year or just entering college — about job and career opportunities within the pharma industry.

And there are plenty of opportunities. North Carolina is the third-leading state in the country for biotechnology, according to the N.C. Biotechnology Center. Since 2020, 94 biotech and pharma companies have invested $10.8 billion in the state to help create an additional 12,600 jobs. Overall, North Carolina has more than 800 life sciences and pharmaceutical companies employing more than 75,000 people.

The event is free, and refreshments will be available. Students should register in advance online.

“It’s an educational event to learn about pathways into the pharma industry,” said Scott Snead, director of industry relations for ECU’s College of Engineering and Technology. “It’s just an opportunity to get a really good idea of what life in pharma would be, regardless of what your degree is. Come see how your degree can lead to a career in the pharma industry.”

Not only can a career in pharma be lucrative — the average annual salary in the biosciences industry is roughly $97,000 — but it can be rewarding because the industry supports the needs of the sick and injured.

“That’s the motivation for why they should look into the pharma industry,” Limberis said. “They will be helping people. They will have a meaningful, enriching career, and I think that sometimes is lost.”

Students who attend can network with company representatives and view demonstrations. ECU alumni who work in the pharma industry will be available to answer questions about their career journeys. Students can also talk to pharma center staff and advisors to help them create a path toward a career in the pharmaceutical industry.

Snead said students can visit ECU Career Services to prepare for the event.

“Bring a professionally reviewed and well-prepared resume, and dress appropriately, at least business casual,” Snead said. “It’s an opportunity to make an impression.”

ECU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education, Career Services and the Eastern Region Pharma Center (ERPC) are hosting the event. The pharma center, with support from the Golden LEAF Foundation and ECU, started in 2021 to promote workforce development and career pathways to meet pharmaceutical job needs in the region. ECU leads the effort that also includes five regional community colleges, whose students are also invited to attend PharmaFest.

“The whole point of the ERPC is workforce development, and that’s why we’re doing this,” Limberis said of PharmaFest. “We’re a facilitator, and that’s what we’re here for.

“I think the biggest thing is the awareness of the opportunities in the pharma industry. What PharmaFest is doing is providing an educational, networking and kind of a career fair atmosphere that will allow students to explore opportunities in the pharma industry, regardless of what their major is. Students can come looking for jobs and looking for internships, but it’s going to be more like a chance to check it out. See if there is something here that interests you because it is an interesting and enriching career.”

Companies registered to participate include Catalent, Fresenius-Kabi, Fuji Film, NovoNordisk, PCI LLC., PharmEng Inc., Sequence Inc., and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Representatives from the Parenteral Drug Association’s Southeast Chapter and the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering are also scheduled to attend.