Education:Open University; City of Westminster College; Sir John Newsom Secondary School
Qualifications:Degree in Biological Sciences; BTEC 3 in Applied Sciences; lots of diploma level courses; A' Levels and some GCSEs
Work History:GSK (where I work now); Computacenter (building computers for large companies); National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (animal technician); Buccentaur Gallery (packing greeting cards)
In-vivo and Formulation Research Scientist
GlaxoSmithKline in Stevenage, Hertfordshire
We are a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer.
GlaxoSmithKline plc was formed in 2000 as a result of a merger between Glaxo Wellcome plc and SmithKline Beecham plc , although our history can be traced back more than 300 years to London’s Plough Court Pharmacy in the 1700s.
Our goal is to be one of the world’s most innovative, best performing and trusted healthcare companies.
Our strategy is to bring differentiated, high-quality and needed healthcare products to as many people as possible, with our three global businesses, scientific and technical know-how and talented people.
Our values and expectations are at the heart of everything we do and form an important part of our culture:
- Our values are Patient focus, Transparency, Respect, Integrity
- Our expectations are Courage, Accountability, Development, Teamwork
My Work: I test medicines using animals and help to develop medicines for children which don't taste bad.
I am an in-vivo scientist (that means I work with animals) creating new medicines for humans. A major part of my job is to test the taste of medicines for children (kids won’t swallow medicine if it tastes bad) and make special recipes which include the medicine that the children will hopefully take (kind of like making a cake). I have a special group of rats (picture below) who act as my taste testers and when I give them a tiny bit of medicine in water, they will lick it and I can work out if the medicine tastes horrible or not. The rats only get a tiny bit of medicine so it doesn’t make them feel bad.
I also work with scientists at University’s to help find easier ways of testing medicine and recently worked with a Professor who used slime mould (picture below) to test if chemicals might taste bitter or could be dangerous to humans. It’s amazing.
My Typical Day: Say 'hello' to my rats, write up a study plan (bit like home work) and test some medicine.
Whenever I can, I will go and say hello to my rats. I have some amazing people who look after them for me, keep them clean with lots of food and water and make sure they are healthy.
When I have a chemical that needs testing I have to write out a special form that says why I need to use animals and show it to some vets and scientists who must all agree before I can run an experiment. There are lots of laws that protect the animals to make sure that they are only used when there is no other way of testing to see if a chemical might become a medicine. All of our animals are cared for by trained people and we have lots of vets available if an animal becomes unwell.
In the afternoons, I often have lots of meetings where we talk about things like the new medicines we need to make to help people, or things we can do to improve our animals lives.
Once I have finished an experiment I have to write up my results. This is a little bit like doing homework but is very important. Sometimes I have to stand in front of a room full of scientists and tell them all about the experiments I have been doing, which can be a bit scary.
How I got into this job: Took a job (similar to an apprenticeship) looking after lab animals when I left school then gradually developed into the scientist I am now.
By the time I had finished my A’ Levels, I was ready to leave full time education (University wasn’t for me at that time) and find myself a job. For a short while, I worked in a greeting card factory whilst I was looking for a job in science – an OK job, but not for me. I was offered my first ‘proper’ job as an animal technician working for a medical research center testing vaccines against some pretty scary diseases. During the 8 years I spent working at this lab, I developed lots of hands on skills, many of which I still use now, 15 years later. I also study part time for my degree based in Applied Biology, so my first job was very much like the apprentices that are available now.
After around 8 years, I wanted to ‘try something different’ so I left and worked in IT (computers) for a couple of years. Don’t be afraid to try different things, like a new career – it is important to be happy in life and if you do make the wrong choice, that’s fine, you can always look elsewhere or go back to the work you did before.
I didn’t really enjoy the computer work and soon wanted to get back into science, so I sent my CV to some local employers and was invited for an interview at GSK. I was offered a job in a team performing experiments using animals. Over the next few years, I jumped at opportunities that were offered to me, but also created opportunities for myself, which sent my career down a slightly different path. I now develop pre-clinical methods (so before medicines go into humans) of testing medicine taste and help to create medicines that are acceptable to children.
I also look for alternative ways of testing medicines that don’t use animals, or that use less animals. Whilst it would be brilliant not to need to use animals, at the moment, they are the only real way to test if a medicine might work and is safe in humans. Although potential medicines might work differently in animals than in humans, animals are still the most reliable way of testing.
What's the best thing you've ever done in your career?
I took a horrible tasting Cancer medicine that children were refusing to swallow and was able to test and change the formulation so that children would take the medicine without spitting it out. This medicine is now helping to improve the lives of these children and their families. I feel honoured that I was able to help.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be in the same career as you?
Make sure you have an interest in the science and not just the money. You will probably need a degree, but consider whether you go to University full time, or go straight into a job (like i did) and study part time. Apprenticeships are a great option.
What do you see as your next step in your career?
I would like to establish a small team dedicated to ensuring medicines are developed in a way more targeted to the patient group (e.g. for children, the elderly)
What other sorts of jobs can you do with your qualifications?
Science based qualifications are very highly regarded and can help you get into lots of careers, from teaching to flying planes and most things in between
What's the best part of your current job?
When a piece of work or a recommendation I have made actually improves the experience for the patient taking a medicine.
What don't you like about your current job?
Most jobs have too many meetings that you will have to attend when you would rather be working in a lab