In this blog, we spoke Queen Mary University of London undergraduate students Aneesah Mukadam and Nishma Thakor about their upcoming placement year at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Aneesah and Nishma are studying Chemistry with a Year in Industry at Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS).
Why did you choose to study Chemistry with a Year in Industry at Queen Mary?
Aneesah: I chose this degree because I’ve always loved science and when I was doing my A Levels I leaned more towards Chemistry than Biology. I really like learning about how things are made and chemical processes. I chose Queen Mary because there’s a lot of great research going on at the University and the labs are really professional.
Nishma: I initially did my Foundation year at Queen Mary. The experience helped me decide to go on and do a Chemistry degree. The fact that the University is part of the Russell group and I wanted to stay in London was a big factor in me deciding to study at Queen Mary.
How do you learn about the placement opportunity at GSK?
Aneesah: I always wanted to do a placement so when I saw the opportunity online I applied for the Chemistry placement in drug development and discovery at GSK.
Nishma: We regularly receive emails from Dr Chris Jones and our placement coordinator Karen Clarke informing us of the different placement opportunities so that’s how I found out about GSK’s placement scheme. I’m still considering what I want to do in terms of my career, so I thought a placement year would help me to get experience and learn about different careers.
How was the application process?
Aneesah: Firstly I had to do an online test and then submit an online application. One or two weeks later I received an email to do an interview. GSK actually came to Queen Mary for my interview. It was a 30-minute interview with a lot of technical Chemistry questions to test my organic chemistry knowledge.
Nishma: I had to do an online application, an online assessment testing our critical thinking and then go to their assessment centre in Hertfordshire to take a series different tests. There were three parts including a one-to-one interview, a presentation and then a group exercise. It was a competitive process with several other candidates
What support did you receive?
Aneesah: Dr Chris Jones, Dr Stellios Arsenyadis and Dr Xacobe Cambeiro all gave me some mock interviews including lots of technical questions, which gave me a lot of practice and improved my confidence for when GSK came to do my interview.
Nishma: With the presentation we were given a set of data and a draft presentation. Dr Chris Jones, my adviser Dr Lesley Howell and one of the PhD students at SBCS helped give me a good breakdown of what I needed to think about when putting my presentation together. Thanks to them, I was able to get the information required to create a strong presentation.
What are your expectations of the placement?
Aneesah: As I’ve never worked in an industrial lab, I’m looking forward to learning more about how it works in practice and what I could potentially be doing in the future. I want to learn about how the industry works and I might even see other types of careers I could do in the industry. It’s very practical-based so I will be spending a lot of time working in the lab.
Nishma: It’s an analytical chemistry placement so I’ll be learning different analytical techniques using different equipment. I’m going to be doing a lot of lab work by myself and in teams. My adviser Dr Howell did a similar placement at GSK and having spoken to her, it’s likely that I will also learn a lot about the whole industry, from initial research and development to the manufacturing process and beyond.
What are your plans for the future?
Aneesah: I would like to go into research and hopefully this placement will help me decide whether I would like to work in drug development as a career or if I would prefer to do research in another area. I feel this placement will be very useful for me when I graduate, having the experience in an industrial lab.
Nishma: I’m still considering my options but I think after the placement I will have a much better idea. For now, I plan to do the placement, see what I learn and what I enjoy, and what opportunities there are in the industry.