Research and assay development.
I had a hugely enjoyable year at GSK - I was able to interact with a wide variety of people and I learnt a tremendous amount from the experience. One of the biggest reasons I am pleased about having carried out a placement here is the fact that no one holds it against you if you come away from the experience having decided that a career in the lab isn't for you, and there are many opportunities to explore other career options within the company outside of your department. The score I have awarded reflects the fact that I really enjoyed my time and I am glad that I did it but also I wouldn't give it a 10 because I wouldn't say that it is necessarily my dream job.
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I felt valued by my colleagues to a large extent - I was encouraged to present my data from experiments in group meetings at work where everyone showed a genuine interest in what I had been doing. However, in order to complete my project, I continued working on an area that due to reorganisation the department has moved away from, so after this point I felt that my work was slightly less relevant to the department (although I still found it a valuable experience).
My supervisor was absolutely excellent - at the start of the year when everything was new I received plenty of support and guidance which slackened off throughout the year as I gained confidence and independence. Occasionally, due to my supervisor being exceptionally busy at certain times, I did sometimes feel as though I would have appreciated a little more guidance. However, the times that I felt this way were relatively rare, and if I made them aware that I had questions I was always able to organise meetings with them to discuss my concerns. My supervisor was also fantastic at making me aware of other opportunities at GSK (such as the mentoring scheme by employees in the Future Leaders Programme - which I would highly recommend). They also regularly pushed me out of my comfort zone (encouraging me to arrange/present in group meetings) which helped me really get the most out of my year.
My timetable on a daily basis was hugely variable. Some days I felt I had a lot to do or I didn't have enough time to do everything I needed, and other days I felt as though there was less to do. There was a period of time in the middle of my placement where I was unable to do any experiments for a few weeks due to logistics within the department and I found these weeks quite slow. I will say though that I was impressed with the fact that I still had plenty of work to do after completing my project!
This year has been invaluable in developing my experimental design skills as I had to plan my experiments. If I needed help I knew it was always available but the work done for my project was largely independent.
Towards the end of my placement especially my supervisor would tell me very briefly if they wanted me to do something or point me in the general direction of research they wanted me to carry out and then really let me plan the experiments independently with minimal interference.
This year has taught me so much that I will take away with me into the final year of my degree and beyond.
The year has taught me many general skills that will be indispensable (such as time management, leadership, presentation, organisation).
I have also been lucky to have been exposed to a variety of different laboratory techniques, and also a variety of people in different roles. It has given me an insight into career options and what they entail.
Going forward, I will be able to make much more informed decisions about what I want to do because of this placement.
The office atmosphere was usually quiet and focused (but not unfriendly). This was good for getting independent work done and less good for collaborating. If I wanted to talk to my supervisor I preferred to go into another room to discuss things so as to not feel like a disturbance to the others in the office.
Because GSK offers so many placements, the staff have a fairly good idea of what will be expected of their students by their universities. The training at the start was clearly planned in advance. My project was not outlined immediately when I started and took a few weeks to be decided. Overall I would say the organisation of the placement was good.
I had regular meetings with my supervisor about my personal development and they tried to help me implement my developmental aims.
GSK is a large company and thus there are many opportunities for graduates with an interest in working there (the Future Leaders Programme appeals to me, for example).
A few social events were organised by the IP ambassadors for the Stevenage site but they weren't particularly frequent. I enjoyed the boat party and the Christmas party. Overall I would say if you don't take the initiative with other IPs in your department or that you know (i.e. if you just rely on the events), then the social scene will be poor.
N/A for me as I lived at home.
There is no Nightlife in Stevenage - if you want Nightlife then you get the train to London.
A few - virtually all sport related that I knew of.