In this blog, we spoke to Chemistry with a Year in Industry/Research student Zahra Arjomand Nia. Zahra joined Queen Mary University of London in 2015 and spent her Year in Industry at pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). She is now in her final year at Queen Mary and will graduate in 2019.
Zahra Arjomand Nia
How did you learn about the Year in Industry placement opportunity?
I applied online to GSK. After the general application I had to write my cover letter. I received support from the careers team, who helped me draft my cover letter and edit it to make it more suitable to the requirements of the role.
I then attended an interview at the company and the interview process at GSK was a very positive experience. They made me feel very comfortable and at ease and that’s why I performed well in the interview. I got a call the next day to say I had been picked for the position.
I was delighted that my application was successful, as GSK specifically wanted someone with a Chemistry background.
How was your experience of the industrial placement year?
It was a really great experience. I would recommend doing a placement year to everyone. It’s so useful to have that year working, as work experience will be so important when it comes to applying for jobs after graduation, especially if you can gain a placement at a large global company. The experience itself was amazing, at a great company with a really good work culture.
I was in the finance department, which might sound unusual to some, but actually it’s quite common - four or five of the people in the finance department at GSK were chemists or biochemists previously. As a Chemistry student, you learn so many transferrable skills that you can bring to a finance role so it’s quite a common situation to see Chemistry graduates in these kind of jobs.
I learnt about so much about the pharmaceutical industry too. This included knowledge about GSK’s drugs, how this develops from research and development, to drug development through to packaging and the manufacturing process. I gained a great insight into how the industry works. Without the placement year, it would be difficult to gain this knowledge. I had a large number of training opportunities and a great manager who involved me in meetings, discussions and generally helped me gain lots of exposure.
What would you like to do in the future?
I think having experienced my placement year at GSK in finance, this is the type of career I would like to do in the future. Although I don’t come from a finance background, the skills you learn in Chemistry and STEM subjects are so important in finance. You’re taught to be analytical, precise and detail-orientated. I aim to bring the skills I learn in my degree to this future career. Often a typical pathway for chemists is around research and working in labs, which is a great career. However, this isn’t the only thing you can do with a degree in Chemistry. There are so many people who want employees from Chemistry, Physics and Biology backgrounds, because we work in a systematic way. If I can work in a finance role in a pharmaceutical company, that would be ideal.