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The Gordon Institute Students’ Tour of Novartis in Cambridge

April 14, 2016

Recently, the Gordon Engineering Leadership Cohort visited Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge. It was a hands-on opportunity to learn about cutting-edge biomedical research and understand how engineering plays a leading role in supporting biomedical developments. In addition, this company visit allowed the current Cohort to listen in on presentations by Novartis employees including 2012 Gordon Fellow Grant Eastman and current Gordon Fellow Candidate Aaron Bickel.


Novartis is an Industry Partner of the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership. “I value the transformational impact the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program (GEL) has on my engineers,” said Ted Manley, Associate Director – Delta Automation Services at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “They’ve gained a greater ability to work cross-functionally with research scientists from various groups within Novartis that are advancing drug discovery. They’ve developed an ability to pinpoint problems and identify efficient solutions, and they’ve projected a level of confidence that I attribute to the Gordon Institute’s Engineering Leadership curriculum.”

During the company visit, GEL students were first invited to the Community Exploration and Learning Laboratory (CELL), a new facility created specifically to engage with the local community and allow for hands-on demonstrations for area middle and high school students. The key activity for the GEL students was to manually make serial dilutions using pipette tips and palettes. The tedious task exemplified the challenges biomedical researchers faced in conducting such work: doing such an activity manually risked errors and created inefficiencies. This allowed for an engineering solution through automation and robotics; an area that GEL students were further exposed to during the rest of the tour. They observed the latest technology used by Novartis in creating vials of compounds and were shown 3D printed parts used by Novartis researchers that can help save in costs and production time.

Overall, the company tour of Novartis was a unique opportunity to understand first-hand the impact engineering solutions can have on biomedical research and development. Furthermore, the tour showed how leaders from across an organization’s teams can work cross-functionally to discuss problems and identify solutions through their abilities to invent, innovate, and implement.

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The National Academy of Engineering awarded the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership the prestigious 2015 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.

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