At school I was very interested in health and disease but I didn’t want to go into medicine and work with patients directly. Lynne
So, what do you do?
I am a senior scientist within the respiratory and inflammation department. I am a pharmacologist in the early research stage so this involves studying how drug targets affect and act upon the disease mechanism within cells and tissues.
What does your typical day involve?
Most days are spent in the lab using cell and tissue cultures to look at the affect of drug targets. I analyse the data and write up my notes in my lab book. I present my findings at group meetings.
About 60% of my time is working on my own and 40% working with other people. But when I say working on my own I don’t mean locked in a room all by yourself, the labs are open plan so there’s always other people about that you can chat to and ask for help or advice about something.
The hours are very flexible. I’m in charge of my own work, although my line manager helps me to prioritise my work but it’s basically up to me when I start and finish.
Why did you decide on a career in the pharmaceutical industry?
At school I was very interested in health and disease but I didn’t want to go into medicine and work with patients directly. So I thought I’d like to get involved with drug development, helping patients have a better quality of life.
During my degree I spent a summer placement working on my own research project at a pharmacology department in a university in New York. This was a great travel and cultural experience; but also made me realise that I definitely wanted to do this a career.
What qualifications and experience do you have?
I was educated in Scotland so I studied Highers. I studied Highers in biology and chemistry. I was more interested in biology but I didn’t want to do a straight biology degree. After reading university prospectus’ and looking around different universities and talking to different people, including my science teachers, I sort of stumbled across pharmacology and biochemistry. I wanted to do a joint honours degree as I felt it would open up more opportunities and give me a broader knowledge.
How long have you been in your current role?
Just over a year. After I graduated from my 4 year degree course I applied for jobs within the pharmaceutical industry. I got a job more or less straight away and was there for 5 years before moving to my current company.
What do you like most about your job?
The social side of it and working as part of a team. But mainly I really like the idea of working on drug targets that I know may one day be made in to a medicine, and that every little experiment that I do and data I generate could contribute to helping improve peoples’ lives.
What do you like least about your job?
Some experiments can take a long time, up to 7 hours and once you’ve started you can’t stop! But overall I really like my job, I’m very lucky.
What is it like socially where you work?
It’s a team environment even though you have your individual projects. Working in the lab is really sociable as there are lots of other people to chat to and the radio is always playing. Everyone goes for tea together in the afternoon and sometimes in the morning too.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Working on a drug target for asthma that is now in Phase III clinical trials and is doing really well. I wait with anticipation to see if it makes it to market.
What possibilities are there for your career in the future?
It doesn’t matter what the job title is really. I would like to be responsible for a project, co-ordinating the science that needs to be done within the different groups, such as chemistry, biology, pharmacology, biochemistry. So, more of a management role, but still very much involved in the science.
What do you think are the most important skills for someone in your role to have?
To be able to work as part of a team and on your own. To be able to work to objectives and take direction. Good communication skills; as you need to be able to talk about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You need to be someone who asks a lot of questions.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone seeking a career in the pharmaceutical industry?
I recommend that you try to get experience within either a pharmaceutical company or an academic research lab or biotech company. It’s the only way you’ll get to see what this job is really like.