I was an Industrial Placement Student within Respiratory Biology which became the Novel Human Genetics Research Unit in my final 2 months of placement.
My year at GSK was very enjoyable. You get to spend most of your time in the lab carrying out experiments which is really valuable because you don't get much of an opportunity to do that at University. The technology used at GSK is also of a very high spec which is an added benefit.
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Everyone at GSK is very used to working with students which creates a friendly and supportive environment. You are not expected to know everything as soon as you arrive and you are given extensive training in both lab skills and data analysis skills. My team was also very supportive in giving direction to where my project could be taken next.
I had two supervisors during my time at GSK, both of who are very experienced scientists. They were therefore able to assist me in many aspects of my placement from lab skills to getting to grips with GSK software. If they were not able to assist me then they were able to put me in contact with someone who could.
I was generally busy each day. Some weeks can be a bit less busy because you are running an experiment that has a long time course and doesn't require much work each day. During other weeks you can be really busy each day and spend most of your day in the lab but it is nice to have this mixture as it gives a realistic picture of what working life, especially within science, can be like.
Every IP is given responsibility of their own project. It was nice to know that it was up to you to plan your time effectively in order to carry out your project to required deadlines. I was responsible for developing experiments to test the hypotheses set out in my project but there was always help available if necessary.
The skills I have developed this year will help me tremendously both when I am back at uni and beyond. I have acquired many lab skills this year that will aid me in carrying out a successful final year project while back at uni. I have also developed a lot of transferable skills such as communication, presentation and organisation skills. With GSK being such a big organisation it is very easy to network within the company and find out about other areas of the business which is very important to your future career development. I would therefore say that one of the most important skills I have developed this year is the ability to network which will assist me both when I am back at uni and in any future career which I choose.
The culture at GSK is very relaxed and includes benefits such as flexible working hours. Everyone at GSK is working towards helping patients which creates a really empathetic and supportive culture. Due to the large number of students undertaking placements at GSK and the emphasis that the organisation places on developing early talent, there is a lot of support for students available while you work here.
GSK has been recruiting students for a very long time and so the IP program is very well set up and managed. You are given a lot of support and training which helps you to settle into the company really quickly. There is also a society set up for IP students which organises social events such as a boat party on the Thames.
You are given a lot of training at the start of your placement to get you up to speed. This training continues throughout your placement and there is always opportunity to learn new techniques and develop new skills. You are encouraged to go and learn from people both in your department and in other areas of the business.
I would love to come back and work for GSK. They are a great company who invest in their employees and this is the reason that many people spend large parts of their careers here. Also, being such a large company there is opportunity to work in many different areas and move between them which is appealing.
My placement was in Stevenage which doesn't have the best nightlife but it is close to London which is nice. There are social events organised by the student society but I didn't attend many of these as I tended to just socialise with my own friends. There were also social events organised by my department including an all expenses paid for Christmas party which was fun.
Stevenage is relatively cheap for the south of England. I paid around £450 for rent excluding bills. The main place to go and socialise was London which is obviously quite expensive to get to as well as being expensive when you are there. GSK pay you enough to live comfortably and I was able to afford to save some money to go travelling after I finished.
The nightlife in Stevenage isn't great but there are some nice pubs and a few bars in old town which aren't too bad. London is only a 20 minute train away though which, while expensive, is always a good night out. You are also only here for a year so the nightlife doesn't really matter too much.
There were socials organised by both the student society and my department. GSK also have an initiative known as an 'Orange Day' in which you, along with your team, can spend the day volunteering on community projects. We chose to go and volunteer in a community garden while others went and volunteered in a school.