My industrial placement was a lab-based one at GSK in one of the IVIVT departments. I had great satisfaction from getting good results from my work. However, my project required a lot from me and took up an enormous amount of time which led me to work late on numerous occasions. Consequently, I did not have any time to learn things outside my immediate area. This will vary depending on your project as some of the other students had more free time than others.
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For me, GSK provided me with an actual research project that had meaningful consequences. The results I produced had an impact on the department and I felt I was a valued member of the team. That said, being the student does leave you to have the more menial responsibilities such as labelling numerous plasticware for experiments which I felt could have been spent more on the project. Sometimes I also thought that being the new 'inexperienced' person some of my ideas were not considered until they were accepted later on.
When you start your placement, you will be given a personal development programme which will have all the skills you need relevant to you. Before you start lab work you need to complete a myriad of e-learning modules which will take a week or so. After this you will be supervised on lab work until you are tested and signed off on individual things, so you can do it independently. Almost everyone is happy to help you providing they are free, the only thing you need to do is ask in advance. The only thing I would say was that my manger felt a bit absent from my learning and there was never a conversation about what exactly I wanted from the placement. Nevertheless, the skills I learnt were taught very well and everyone knows what they are doing scientifically.
Due to the nature of the project I was on, work was extremely busy which resulted in working after hours just to get experiments or other aspects of the project completed. There were periods where I was not as busy but that was due to waiting for items to be delivered.
I was given a lot of responsibility to complete the work that was given to me. However, due to the circumstances of the project, I was never allowed to direct the next steps of my project as it was up to the managers or supervisors to do that. It was up to me to work on the specifics of whatever was decided.
The technical skills I gained were second to none and there is always some opportunity to learn more provided you have the free time. I developed numerous soft skills from leading presentations, organising events and teamwork etc. There was always opportunities to get involved with other things going around but the issue is finding time for these endeavours.
The area I was involved in, IVIVT, had an older generation of staff. There were seldom very few people under 25. Most of the staff are >40 which means they were not the type to go for a drink after work. Thankfully there are plenty of placement students around which fill that void. Although my department was very friendly and helpful.
All the standard learning things were routine. Specific things you needed to know was done where and when with somebody else.
As mentioned before, when you start your placement you are given a personal development plan (PDP) and this is all the skills you will need to be fully signed off to do things independently. Prior to being signed off, you will be supervised which is helpful as your supervisors will be very knowledgeable. Most of the training is on the job with a few things you will need to attend a seminar which contractor, full-time employees attend. For students, there are several training sessions which soft skills which are very enjoyable and helpful for the future.
At the time of writing this, there is almost no chance of being hired after your placement at GSK. This is due to a hiring freeze happening in the company due to change of director-level management. If you are looking to get hired after your placement this is not the place for you. However, if any position did arise and you apply externally for a role, you are very strongly preferred over non-GSK experienced candidates.
Your mileage may vary as it's a small group of random people who may or may not be social.
Things were pretty expensive, rent + bills = £500
Double gin and tonic = ~£9
Pint = ~£5
But you did get paid around £20k or so
The nightlife was very poor, there was about one 'club' but there was an abundance of pubs. The cost of living in the south is astronomical especially for a drink which would be ~£5 for a pint! The area was suited for more casual drinkers at the pub than a proper nightlife.
There were plenty of opportunities to get involved in, but your mileage may vary depending on which site you are. One of the things you can be involved in is the national industrial placement group, IPUNITE, that organises many national events for the other 500 placement students at other sites i.e. Christmas Ball, Summer boat party, London scavenger hunt etc. At my specific site, there was a huge emphasis on volunteering to become a STEM ambassador and helping local schools. You can also join various sports clubs such as football, badminton, squash etc.