To generated expression systems for the generation of recombinant proteins required for the drug discovery projects within GSK. This involved the design and generation of DNA expression constructs; their subsequent expression using various bacterial, mammalian and insect cell-lines; and final purification, characterisation of activity and analytical analysis of the generated recombinant proteins.
My work was very varied and I was able to work along side my supervisor, as well as being trained by and working with our team and departments. I worked on everything from DNA expression construct design and generation; expression of these constructs using various bacterial, mammalian and insect cell-lines; and final purification, activity characterisation and analytical assessment of my generated recombinant proteins.
The work I completed was highly valued and appreciated because it was vital for on the drug discovery project teams. It was amazing to work at the fore front of drug development research and knowing that the work I did contributed towards the development of a novel biopharmaceutical agent. GSK employees typically treated us, industrial placement students, the same way they would a fall time employee, they valued our inputs and insights and encouraged us to contribute in team meetings and discussions.
I had a very supportive supervisor who proactively helped my receive training from and work with other department and teams to expand my skill set. Additionally, the department I worked within were also highly supportive and friendly and I was able to ask for help from any other them. GSK in general is a very friendly and supportive place and there is always someone willing to help point in the right direction, whatever the problem may be.
No two days were the same, I had an excellent balance of laboratory/wet work; time working at my desk in the office; attending meetings; giving talks/presentations; and attending other events held at GSK such as seminars. I had the freedom to organise and arrange my own time to meet the deadlines of the different project teams I worked with. This allowed me to manage the workload in an appropriate manner for myself and I never felt pressurised to meet deadlines.
The work I undertook was vital for one of the companies drug discovery projects. Within only a few months I was the one 'running the showing' for the project work; I was invited to present my work to the project team (involving individuals from across the company) regularly. Ultimate responsibility for the work did lie with my supervisor, but he left it to me to call the shots and decide the next steps to be taken during my time at GSK.
My placement helped me significantly improve my laboratory skills and as well as broaden them. I have also organised for my final year research project, at university, to be a collaboration between my GSK department and my university; therefore, the skills I learnt while on placement will translate directly to my final project. Moreover, my time at GSK has helped me to discover new fields of research which I am now looking to pursue to complete a PhD in.
We had a very large, and often noisy, hot-desking office. This could make for a distracting environment. However, this did make it easier to meet people and start discussions. If I required somewhere quieter to work, GSK provided several quiet spaces throughout the building for people to use for as long as they needed.
Being employed through an agency (SRG) had the advantage that we had a proactive, dedicated team to support us. The regularly sent out reminders about when important information was due or to be sent out. If anything went wrong we had a dedicated helpline who were efficient and supportive with sorting out any queries that someone might have.
GSK actively encourages collaborations, hence I received training in skills from other departments which I may not have received otherwise. Moreover, GSK as a dissertation scheme which helps facilitate GSK supervisors supporting the students during their final year research projects, at university, after they have completed their placement. Furthermore, GSK allows employees to use their working time to attend work-related events such as STEM workshops which the employee might be running at a school, or attending a conference.
In terms of future investment, industrial placement students are able to apply internally to the GSK graduate scheme and can set up job alerts for 'direct-entry' jobs within GSK. GSK also encourages their industrial placement students to come back after university and many do find work at GSK afterwards.
GSK encourages their industrial students to come back to the company, post their graduation. Placement students can apply to the GSK graduation scheme internally; therefore, placement students can apply for these positions before they become available externally. Moreover, placement students can sign up to the companies direct-entry job alert scheme which will notify them about direct entry jobs available in the company. If the student applies for this job through this alert scheme, the assessor will also be notified that the individual is an ex-GSK industrial placement student, improving their chances of receiving a job offer. Furthermore, there is a dedicated team at SRG (our employers) who can be contacted at any point in the future to help with job hunting, CVs, interview advice, etc.
IP Unit was our equivalent to a university's Student Union. They organised social events all over the country, ranging from small nights out bowling, to larger formal events for Christmas. Additionally, the organised talks which ranged from scientific topics to explaining how the company works; training in writing CVs/interviews; and were open to suggestions about any possible activities that students wanted.
Being situated very close to London (30 minute maximum train journey) meant that if we couldn't think of anything to-do in Stevenage then we could just go to London. Students regularly hosted large and small scale parties and 'hang-outs'. There was an active social scene while on placement, in particular we formed a group which went the cinema and dinner nearly every Wednesday.
There was not a lot: mini-golf, dinner, pubs, cinema and staying at home. Being near London did mean that we could easily go down to London for a night out if we so wished; owing to the cost of London night clubs this didn't happen very often. Stevenage currently only has one night club (Bar and Beyond), it is however expected to opening a Pop World as well in the near future.
Stevenage houses may sports clubs and teams for people to join. Additionally, there are a range of other clubs for individuals to enjoy; I knew several placement students that attended a weekly pottery class and another group who attended a monthly book club. Some departments/teams also held several socials outside of work, ranging from pub lunches on Friday to cinema trips to long walks.