5 Questions with Destinie Burgan, Upstream Supervisor of Manufacturing, Emergent BioSolutions

“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. March is WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH and BioBuzz will celebrate by featuring Women in the BioHealth industry all month, especially in “5 Questions With…”. This week we continue the series with Destinie Burgan, Upstream Supervisor of Manufacturing, Emergent BioSolutions.

My name is Destinie Burgan, and I am the Upstream Supervisor of Manufacturing at Emergent BioSolutions. I have been in this role for approximately 2 ½ years.

I was raised in Washington County, MD as a foster child until I was accepted into Stevenson University and moved to Baltimore. For most of my time as an undergraduate, I wasn’t sure what career path to take. It wasn’t until I worked under Dr. Sara Narayan and researched novel HIV-1 therapeutics that I determined I wanted to pursue drug development for my career choice.

As a Stevenson University alumna, I am involved in the community by mentoring undergraduate science majors and engaged with the American Medical Student Association. I am also involved in Women In Bio, which I joined when I first was hired at Emergent. I volunteer with numerous different organizations through Emergent’s GIVE program, such as Meals on Wheels. At Emergent, I am on the Bayview culture committee, where we try to plan parties and events. COVID has allowed us to get creative in bringing employees together.

1. Please introduce yourself to our audience with a look back at your education and career.

I received my Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology with a minor in Chemistry from Stevenson University in 2017. I am graduating from Johns Hopkins University this spring with a Master of Science in Biotechnology, concentrating on Molecular Targets and Drug Discovery.

In my job as the Upstream Manufacturing Supervisor at Emergent BioSolutions, I oversee the vaccine and biotherapeutic bioprocessing. My team and I are currently working around-the-clock to manufacture different COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Emergent BioSolutions is a life sciences company that develops and manufactures a variety of different vaccines and therapeutics. My role is to aid in the process development, technology transfer, and bioprocessing of various client-based projects.

Previously, I worked as a manufacturing technician at Becton Dickinson, where I manufactured medical devices for rapid microbial identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. I originally started my biotechnology career as an intern at AthenaES, where I gained experience in manufacturing, validation of different enzyme kits, and research and development.

2. You are currently an Upstream Supervisor at Emergent BioSolutions who is working with a number of partners on COVID-19 projects. What does it mean to be working with a company fighting the Pandemic? What have you learned working there this past year?

I feel extremely grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to work with a company fighting the pandemic. To be able to say that I was a part of this large-coordinated effort to fight the pandemic worldwide is genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has fueled my drive and pushed me to accomplish more.

I have learned so much working with Emergent this past year. When I was promoted to Supervisor, I learned quickly how to manage my peers and what it means to keep commercial production going. I’ve learned a lot on the “behind-the-scenes” of bioprocessing that I wouldn’t have appreciated before when I was solely an operator.

I have many mentors at Emergent who guide me in the commercial business side of the role and who help me with the managerial responsibilities of the job. I still have a lot more to learn, and I’m ready for any new opportunities 2021 has to offer!

3. Outside of work, how do you stay connected with your industry peers in the BioHealth Capital Region?

Staying connected with my industry peers was easier to do before COVID-19. We would have barbecues at someone’s house and have the occasional happy hour. A couple of us would get together to join a Volo City team for flag football or softball. Now, it’s the occasional FaceTime and Zoom happy hour – which is still a lot of fun! Women In Bio has been a phenomenal resource. I am a member and try to go to as many events as possible. The community is an excellent outlet to keep connected with other women in this field during the pandemic.

4. What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career in biotechnology and, specifically, bioprocessing?

My advice for someone looking to start a career in biotechnology, specifically bioprocessing, would be to:

Build a Network – Biotechnology is a small industry. You will run into the same people throughout your career, and it’s best to build a network that you can lean on for advice. I have found that people all have different perspectives, and each person can teach you something new as you grow in your career.

Learn as much as you can – I have discovered that the more knowledge you acquire, the further you will go in this field. Have patience; you might learn more at some companies than others, but always search for the bigger picture and the deeper meaning.

It is also important that you retain what you’ve learned as you move through the industry. Take your experience and expertise with you, don’t leave them behind.

Learn the Lingo – The common language of the field can make it more challenging to move quickly; so, my advice is to learn the lingo as quickly as you can. I researched on my own through journal articles, and other sources, along with asking my manager and mentors, so that I was quickly able to adapt and apply my learnings to my day-to-day responsibilities.

5. What are some things outside of work that you’re irrationally passionate about? Tell us about it.

I am passionate about self-care. It is very important to take care of both your body and your mind. This is easier said than done and can take many different forms. I practice yoga and meditation—different positions in yoga release different tensions in both my body and mind. Sometimes, taking a moment to reflect on the day without the distraction of music, TV, or cell phones can be the meditation needed.

I am very aware of the balance I need between my work responsibilities, personal life, passion for a job, and where that can take you. Nothing could have prepared me for loving a job too much. In this industry, many people have drive and commitment, and it is very easy just to keep working.

However, just like with any job, it can be stressful. It’s important to remember to take lots of rest and relaxation to continue to do the job you love.

Thank you Destinie Burgan for participating in the ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series, and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region and beyond.

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