Industrial Placement Student in Biology R&D, RRI DPU, Respiratory, GSK
Working at GSK Stevenage in R&D was hugely rewarding. I was able to develop and gain new scientific skills while working with modern and high-tech equipment. Working in a team on a directed research project, allowed me to build on my confidence and network. I thoroughly enjoyed my year at GSK, and intend on returning to industry after my studies.
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At GSK Stevenage there is a large cohort of IPs every year, therefore I always had friends around within and outside of my department. In a work place setting, I was given a project to answer a specific question about the target being investigated by my team. I understood what my work was contributing towards and received continued positive feedback throughout the year.
At the start of my placement I received a week of training alongside the other IPs in my department, in which we were taught basic lab skills and calculations. My supervisor throughout the year was fantastic, not only did she provide guidance with the work I was doing on placement, but she also continues to support me through university work, PhD applications etc. Most of the staff are very friendly and approachable and are happy to help if you need it.
For me personally the level of work I had throughout the year, as it normally does in science. In my first 6 months of placement I worked on my project, which unfortunately I obtained negative results for and we decided to end it and move on to something else. This meant for a while I was very busy with lab work and University write ups but afterwards work slowed down as I met with my team to decide on what to do next.
At the start of the year I had a lot of guidance while I was learning new skills. My supervisor aided me with lab work and helped me with answering open research questions. As the year progressed she took a step back as I developed my skills and began to think more critically. Eventually I was carrying out lab work, making key decisions and planning my weekly schedule with little input.
The skills I have learnt while at GSK are so valuable when it comes to my future career. Not only will they aid me through my final year of university, but also in applications for postgraduate study or graduate jobs. Having gained this experience has put me in a more employable position over candidates without a year in industry
I worked in an open office environment without assigned desks, but rather hot-desking. This promoted networking and made it easy for me to speak to people of different disciplines and roles. On a day to day basis the office is quite professional as people get on with their work, but we had attached social spaces to use during breaks.
As I was based within Respiratory, there were lots of other IPs in my department. We all had similar experiences, with most supervisors being attentive. From our first day on site, it was possible to see the organisation from the recruitment team who put a lot of effort into our training and helping us settle in.
As IP students we received an introductory week of basic training. Our supervisors then individually invested their time in training us in specific areas of research relevant to our project or our work. We were allowed to use all the high-tech equipment in the lab as well as expensive reagents and kits such as MSDs. My supervisor has also invested her time in helping me with my academic work.
After gaining an insight in the research industry it is definitely where I would like to work in the future. I would be interested in returning to work at GSK however, graduate jobs are often rare and hard to come by in Biology R&D. It is possible to apply to the Future Leaders Programme, a graduate entry programme, while on placement. These roles are not lab based. Having done a placement at GSK it does make it more likely for you to be hired by them in the future.
There were over 100 IPs at the Stevenage site, with lots of social events throughout the year such as the Christmas IP ball and the Summer IP Boat party on the Thames, which was fantastic. In my department there were quite a few of us, and we often organised lunches together. Once a month the department also goes for after work drinks, there is also the annual Christmas party, a leaving lunch and the opportunity to do charity work together on an orange day
Cost of living in Stevenage was not too bad. Rent was on average £400 a month depending on the area you lived in. There are lots of supermarkets allowing for choice at where you shop (I recommend Asda). Socialising also was not too bad, however there's not much to do, so you will find London to be a much better place to go out, but this is expensive.
There is really not much going on in Stevenage apart from your local Spoons and one nightclub which isn't great. However London is 20 minutes away by train, and of course there is so much to see and do there. I really took advantage of this, and went to London most weekends. If you want to go on a night out the last train is at ~1am or you could get the northern line to High barnet and an uber to Stevenage for ~£30.
Stevenage doesn't have a massive amount of things to do. There are lots of gyms to chose from and a park run on Saturday mornings. Other than that I found it hard to do activities outside of work. GSK do have a netball club, zumba classes and football club however, which is good fun to take part in.