May 8: Company after Company

Today, we embarked on our first visits to various companies. Our morning started with Samsung, but it was not the branch of Samsung that most people are familiar with. In the United States, Samsung is widely recognized for its electronics: primarily phones and tablets. However, in South Korea, the company has dipped into many aspects of a citizen’s daily life. As it was described to us by our guide, a person could be living in a Samsung apartment wearing Samsung clothing. In our case, we visited Samsung Biologics, a fairly new branch of the company. Samsung Biologics was founded in 2011 with its headquarters in Incheon, one of the neighboring cities outside of Seoul. We entered their main building, greeted by a screen welcoming the University of Pittsburgh. Waiting for us was James Choi, the Chief Information Officer of the company, who later gave a very interesting talk about the company and its current technologies.

Overall, I was most fascinated by the exponential growth of the company after only eight years. The company first started with only one plant that was only able to produce 30,000 L of their product (biological drugs) at a given time. In only eight years, the company has expanded and open two plants that have a production capacity of 152,000L and 180,000L. They have optimized their plants in order to reduce the loss of a product when switching from one production line of a biological product to another; seeing this manufacturing technology first hand was very exciting. As a newly declared chemical engineer and an intern at a pharmaceutical company, I am really interested in Samsung’s step into BioPharma and their impressive ability to develop semiconductor plants that streamline the process of drug development. BioPharma is a field I have not personally looked into myself, so it was definitely eye-opening to see another side of drug development that I am not familiar with.

After visiting Samsung Biologics, we drove back to Seoul and took a tour of City Hall. City Hall is rich with South Korean history, as it is filled with pictures of important milestones in their past. This extends from pictures of all the past mayors to one of Seoul citizens cheering in the streets during the World Cup. The architecture of City Hall was extremely fascinating. For example, the new part of City Hall has a rooftop garden from where you can see the Blue House, the executive office and official residence of the South Korean President. The building itself is astutely ventilated and in some parts not made of glass, as one would think, but plastic. The building itself has a lot of places were people can interact with the city government and leave suggestions or recommendations. It was nice to see that people were sitting in the building, able to relax with coffee or work on something. After City Hall, we stopped at Seoul Global Startup Center. It is an organization funded by the government that supports startups for foreigners in South Korea. A huge range was cities and countries were represented in the office, and we were lucky to meet some of the people who either work there or are working on their own startup. In my opinion, the startup center had a very cool work culture that was clearly welcoming to new ideas. The center offers mentoring and networking events to these startups so that perhaps their idea will make it as a growing company.

After a long day of site visits, it was nice to come back to the hotel for a bit and relax. A group of us then visited the Seoul Tower, from which we were able to see Seoul in the evening with all of the lights on; it was a beautiful view. The surrounding area near the Seoul itself had a lot to do: there was an arcade, restaurants, and a shop. After dinner, it was very satisfying to rest knowing I had a long and fun day.

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