Industrial Placement (IP) students perform a range of different roles in the different departments of GSK, mainly contributing to active projects that will benefit the company and patients on the short, medium or long terms.
The placement at GSK R&D has been absolutely fantastic. With access to a wide number of techniques, it has allowed me to develop and learn practical skills that was just not possible at university. I also got very useful insights into what the job involves and allowed me to develop soft skills important for today's job market.
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The appreciation that I received by my colleagues was very positive. I have presented data and results of my experiments on weekly basis, and these presentations are often taken seriously. I was treated as any other employee in the company and received a full range of support and appreciation at all times.
My supervisor has been supportive all year along. She have introduced me to many of the techniques that I have used and also performed experiments alongside myself to ensure that I was doing everything correctly. She also gave very useful feedback to my placement report and was available at every time I needed.
Although at some points during the year, the workload was low due to having to wait for products or reagents to arrive, overall the amount of work that I had was balanced. I had enough to feel that I was doing important things for my department but I was also encouraged not to overwork and to make sure that I maintain a good work/life balance across the year.
During the first months, the responsibility given was low as I was still learning the techniques and learning how to design experiments efficiently and effectively. Nonetheless, towards the end of my placement the amount of responsibility increased to a point where I felt that the decisions and results obtained where impacting some of the global decisions made in the department.
My placement year has been extremely useful to understand, not only how to perform techniques and design experiments in the lab, but also to improve other soft skills such as scientific writing or time management. These are skills invaluable towards my final year project, and I feel that thank to the placement at GSK I am able to manage my work and time at university way better than before.
The atmosphere at my office was very friendly. There was always cakes and sweets brought by different people and the environment is very relaxed. There is no control over what time you go in/out of work as you are trusted to be responsible with your own work, and the socials and pub lunchs organised made it very easy to socialise with colleagues. We even went to play laser tag at one point!
GSK is a big organization that is keen on taking placements students every year. Hence, the overall organization of the placement has been excellent at all times in terms of payments, holiday and work training. GSK uses a recruitment agency, SRG, who provides many points of information and contact in case you have any questions (although they are not the quickest ones at getting back to you).
In terms of training and development, we have access to a range of electronic learning (eLearning) courses available to all employees at GSK. Whilst this is very useful, some of the eLearnings that we had to do seemed a bit too long/repetitive. There are also a range of different advantages in museums and other sites around London for GSK employees that I had access to.
In GSK, there are a wide range of possible opportunities for entering the organization in different aspects of the business, whether is science-related jobs in R&D, or other business/managerial roles in finance, marketing or business. They also promote a graduate scheme (Future Leadership Programme) where placements students get a slight advantage compared to other external applicants.
Compared to other placement opportunities, the social scene in GSK is good due to the fact that the sites where the placements are carried out are often very large and a big number of students get hired (these might vary between sites though). For this reason, is often easy to make new friends and maintain an active social life.
I was based in Stevenage, one of the main R&D sites of GSK in the UK. Here, the living costs are relatively good, especially taking into account that Stevenage is very near London and that, on the weekends, a return day pass to London (zones 1-6) costs around 12 pounds. Other living costs, such as housing or groceries, have average costs, like in many other parts in the UK.
Nightlife in Stevenage is not extremely active. The city on itself is quite small and there are not many places to go. However, London is very close to Stevenage and trains run until relatively late - that was the preferred option for many students doing placements for going out.
In Stevenage, the range of opportunities to get involved in other activities was not very wide. Some volunteering or sport opportunities might be available, but overall there was not a lot that was on offer. There are, though , some opportunities to get involved in such activities within GSK (although these are not normally targeted very well to students).