Co-op at Sanofi Pasteur points ChBE major, student-athlete Sophia Mayone ’21 to grad school path

There’s a reason why chemical engineering major Sophia Mayone ’21 became interested in science at a young age.

“My youngest brother was born with a chronic illness,” she says. “I was eight years old, but started asking questions about biology, cells, genes, and why he had this disease.

“Because I started asking those types of questions early in life, I feel like it stuck with me. My interest in science, technology, and studying diseases grew from there.”

Mayone, a coxswain on the Lehigh Women’s Rowing team, is advancing those interests through the Rossin College’s co-op program. During the fall, she commuted from campus to Swiftwater, Pa., putting in 40-hour workweeks at Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of global pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. 

Throughout the semester, Mayone was deeply involved in important projects, including researching new technologies that could improve the manufacturing process of the influenza vaccine.

“I communicated with vendors, spoke with people who worked in private sector companies, and asked them about their technology,” she says. “I was 21 years old, communicating with people who do this for a living.

“I asked valid questions and came back with concrete information I could communicate to my manager.”

She was a sponge, taking everything in—and taking advantage of an environment that fostered learning and growth.

“Everyone in the lab was so supportive of me as a student and encouraged me to ask questions,” says Mayone. “They helped when I needed it, but also gave me space to learn how to do things on my own. I also gained a very beneficial perspective on how different education levels fit in the workforce.”

Mayone is using what she learned to help map out her future.

“After my first rotation in the fall, I realized I want to go to graduate school because I’m a lot more interested in the discovery and process development side of things,” she says. “My co-op experience helped me make a very informed decision about my next steps after Lehigh.”

Her goal is to eventually earn a doctoral degree in chemical engineering.

“As of now, my plan is to go directly into a PhD program,” she says. “I would like to do my thesis work in something related to the pharmaceutical industry.”

For now, Mayone is focused on resuming her co-op experience at Sanofi Pasteur amid the heightened focus on vaccines in the time of coronavirus. (Sanofi recently announced it is exploring a COVID-19 vaccine.)

After gaining first-hand knowledge over the fall of how the influenza vaccine is made, Mayone says, “this summer, I'm excited to see how professionals in a company that makes vaccines are responding [to COVID-19].”

Story by Justin Lafleur

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Sophia Mayone
"I hope prospective Lehigh student-athletes who are really serious about their academics see my story as proof that [Head Rowing] Coach [Brian] Conley is here to support us as students. I can't emphasize how lucky I am that a Division I student-athlete is able to experience a co-op."
Sophia Mayone ’21, chemical engineering major and coxswain on the Lehigh Women’s Rowing team
Sophia Mayone