Barry McNamara  |   Published January 10, 2022

Chem Alumni Solving Problems

Four Monmouth College grads employed at MilliporeSigma, a global life science company helping to battle the pandemic.

PROBLEM SOLVERS: The Cherokee Facility is one of eight sites within the MilliporeSigma St. Louis ...PROBLEM SOLVERS: The Cherokee Facility is one of eight sites within the MilliporeSigma St. Louis hub. The facility is a lynchpin for the life science business, primarily supporting the company's Actives & Formulations portfolio, and is currently undergoing a $3 million expansion to support business growth. MONMOUTH, Ill. – In St. Louis, four Monmouth College alumni are part of a team at an international company that is fighting COVID-19.

Gianna Scumaci Connolly ’12, Jennifer Scott Hazer ’08, Michelle Tank ’11 and Corey White ’07 all work at MilliporeSigma (formerly Sigma-Aldrich), a global life science and technology company that provides tools, services and digital platforms that empower scientists and engineers.

“Our company has played a large role in the fight against COVID-19 as a critical raw material supplier for diagnostic testing, vaccine manufacturing and therapeutic treatments,” said White.

“Our company has played a large role in the fight against COVID-19 as a critical raw material supplier for diagnostic testing, vaccine manufacturing and therapeutic treatments.” Corey White


White noted that MilliporeSigma’s sites are particularly accelerating the production of lipids, a key part of the COVID vaccine.

“Our sites are impacting the detection of and resolution to this global pandemic,” he said.

Even before there was a virus to eradicate, White was proud of the work his company does.

“To me, that’s the most rewarding part of being in this field,” said White, who was the first of the four Monmouth alumni to join the company, fresh out of college. “You see a commercial for a pharmaceutical on TV, and you’re able to say, ‘My day-to-day work is changing people’s lives.’”


Production planning

White serves as MilliporeSigma’s head of production planning in St. Louis. He’s used to working months ahead on his company’s manufacturing needs, and the pandemic has factored into that planning in a major way.

“We’re always working six to 12 months ahead,” he said. “In the last two months of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, we started to see changes in the supply chain from China. We had to start thinking about ‘What is the impact downstream?’ That’s a huge part of what I do. We’re constantly looking at future scenarios. Here’s how much material we need. Here’s how much each site can produce. Here’s what our customer needs. If there’s a gap, how do we close that gap?”

“To me, that’s the most rewarding part of being in this field. You see a commercial for a pharmaceutical on TV, and you’re able to say, ‘My day-to-day work is changing people’s lives.’” Corey White


Coming up with those answers is more complex than a simple formula or consulting a slide rule. White said he constantly draws on skills he sharpened at Monmouth.

“I don’t necessarily use the science that I studied at Monmouth,” said White, who majored in biochemistry and chemistry and was a production chemist at Sigma-Aldrich before making a course change that led to his current position. “What I do use is the problem-solving skills I learned at Monmouth.”

LEADING MANUFACTURER: The Dekalb Facility is one of eight sites within the MilliporeSigma St. Lou... LEADING MANUFACTURER: The Dekalb Facility is one of eight sites within the MilliporeSigma St. Louis hub. More than 2,600 research products are manufactured at this facility.White is said he grateful he experienced the hard science part of the company before making the decision that “I wanted to manage people.”

“I have a better understanding of all aspects of the company because I see the day-to-day questions from our customers, and I also have an understanding of what happens on the manufacturing side,” he said. “Being able to problem solve is something I’m able to do because of my liberal arts education. To me, that’s the benefit of the kind of education that Monmouth offers. It opens up so many doors for you.”


Preparation at Monmouth

Hazer, who serves as a biologics operational excellence manager, said her liberal arts education was “an integral part of my career success at MilliporeSigma.”

“Over time, I found myself becoming more than a chemist,” said Hazer, who was a chemistry and mathematics major. “I was becoming an employee who needed skills in engineering, maintenance, quality, leadership, technical writing, project and financial management, drawing and teamwork, among many others. I am a chemist by trade, but it was not just the chemistry courses that allowed me to get to where I am today. It was all the courses, the small lessons from each professor, that has enabled me to pursue the path that’s right for me.”

She still references lessons from professors such as Marjorie Bond and Michael Sostarecz, specifically, as well as the general “logical and creative thinking that was integrated into every course during my four years.”

“I was becoming an employee who needed skills in engineering, maintenance, quality, leadership, technical writing, project and financial management, drawing and teamwork, among many others.” Jennifer Scott Hazer


“Monmouth College has given me the foundation for success in my career and has enabled me with the tools to pursue any future path that I choose,” she said.

Tank supervises the company’s Quality Assurance Department, which is responsible for ensuring that the products manufactured comply with internal, customer and regulatory requirements. A biology major at Monmouth, she credits her alma mater for developing her leadership and critical-thinking skills.

“Being a smaller liberal arts college, Monmouth allowed me more opportunities to get hands-on leadership skills through involvement in Greek life and extracurricular groups, as well as critical thinking skills through various research projects, and team collaboration,” she said. “With these skills, I have been able to participate in and lead large process improvement projects for multiple facilities at MilliporeSigma, which ultimately improve the products we provide to our customers and patients.”

Connolly’s experience is similar to Tank’s. She also works in quality assurance and cites her Greek life experience as a positive influence on her career.

“My experience at Monmouth allowed me to explore ways of getting involved in extracurricular activities such as Chorale, sports and Greek life,” she said. “The skills I gained while involved in those activities were team collaboration, critical-thinking skills, mentoring abilities and leadership skills.”

As far as her academic training, the Monmouth biochemistry major particularly draws on what she learned in organic chemistry.

“That class has definitely helped out with my professional career the most, as I support the Bio Organic group at MilliporeSigma,” said Connolly, who has been with the company for four years. “I have been able to use these skills to help better train new and existing employees, as well as participate in some of the continuous improvements happening at my facility.

A fifth Monmouth connection to MilliporeSigma is Laura Stella Pearson ’83, who recently retired as a senior supervisor in quality assurance after 34 years with the company.

Among her career highlights were leading the training team for more than 350 employees, participating in FDA inspections for new drug approval and overseeing the launch of the company’s Quality Systems software.

“One of the key components of my role was teamwork,” she said. “I worked closely with all departments including operations, quality control and safety. Learning at Monmouth in such a tight-knit environment taught me how important it is to work as a team and how to collaborate with others.”

Pearson’s career grew from yet another Monmouth connection to the company.

“My advice to students is what you do in college will get you in the door. But you have to take advantage of the opportunities once you’re there. You’ve got to keep doing that to be successful.” Corey White


“I got my first job in this industry due to Monmouth alum Sandy Tirpitz Haman ’80,” she said. “Her boss was so impressed with her work that she requested names of other Monmouth grads. Sandy contacted Dr. David Allison, who in turn contacted me. I was hired with very little discussion based on the quality of Sandy’s work.”


‘Unlimited possibilities’

MilliporeSigma’s website includes the statement, “We believe science offers unlimited possibilities.”

For Monmouth science students thinking about their post-college destinations, that’s very good news.

“My advice to students is what you do in college will get you in the door,” said White. “But you have to take advantage of the opportunities once you’re there. You’ve got to keep doing that to be successful.”

Those opportunities include work at White’s company. Last summer, it was reported that MilliporeSigma was looking to add more than 155 jobs in the St. Louis area alone due to the pandemic creating additional demand of the company’s more than 300,000 products. The jobs ranged from sales and marketing roles, to lab-based scientific positions, to manufacturing and packaging jobs.

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