Military veterans manufacturing vaccines: one soldier’s journey
After serving 10 years in the reserves and active duty as a supply sergeant and chemical operations specialist, Tanya Nixon was honorably discharged in 2010. While in the Army, Nixon’s primary responsibilities involved chemical disposal and decontamination. Her postgraduate studies in counseling, educational administration and psychology led her to a career in education that spanned from assistant principal to dean.
Although she was quite successful at it, Nixon felt that being an educator was not her true passion in life, so she sought change. When she learned of the Military Veterans Manufacturing Vaccines (MVMV) program offered by the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing (NCTM), a joint center of Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, she immediately jumped at the opportunity and applied for a scholarship.
Nixon was accepted into, and recently completed, NCTM’s Biomanufacturing Technical Certificate program, which is comprised of 180 continuing education hours of online instruction and hands-on training in upstream and downstream manufacturing processes, sterile environment protocol, bioprocess equipment operations, quality unit operations, good documentation and manufacturing practices, regulatory compliance, and standard operating procedures common in the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry.
The NCTM is an interdisciplinary education institution that provides multi-generational technical training and professional development programs for the biopharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing industries. The MVMV program was made possible by a grant received from the Governor of Texas’ office, which allows NCTM to offer Texas military veterans cost-free professional development and training to enter the biopharmaceutical industry.
Immediately following completion of the program, Nixon was hired at Lonza, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical contract manufacturing organizations. Nixon reports that the training she received at NCTM provided a foundation to understand the big picture—where it came from and where it is going. She feels the program is not only rewarding, but also lucrative. “In one month, I was marketable!” Nixon’s supervisor finds tremendous comfort in the fact that Tanya brought to the company the necessary skills to get the job done; and the biopharmaceutical industry is ready for more employees just like her.
Nixon is convinced that the principles learned during her military service—including attention to detail, timeliness and integrity—are equally important in the biomanufacturing field. “Soldiers are perfect candidates for [the biomanufacturing] field because they are keenly skilled with thinking on their toes, and are very flexible,” Nixon said.
NCTM is currently enrolling for the Spring 2016 cohort of the MVMV program. Interested military veterans can learn more at nctm.tamu.edu.