GlaxoSmithKline is a world leading research-based pharmaceutical company that combines both individual
talent and technical resources to create a platform for delivery for strong growth in a rapidly changing
healthcare market. Our mission is to improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel
better and live longer.
The Oncology Cell Therapy Research Unit in Stevenage comprises of scientists with broad scientific
background. We are currently seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic undergraduate student with a
flair for practical work. Applicants should have completed a minimum of 2 years of a degree in a biological
science subject prior to commencement of the placement. Ideally you will be able to work accurately and
methodically in the laboratory with good communication skills.
The candidate will have an opportunity to contribute to cell therapy programmes and may be involved
with some of the aspects described below:
- Kinetic assessment of 3D Spheroid TCR/CAR-T cell killing assays
- Assay development for Receptor Occupancy and Internalisation
- Tonic/ TCR Signalling assay development
Within the department, we work collaboratively and have responsibility for the production of key assay
data to inform the biology pertaining to oncology cell therapy. Successful candidates will also have the
opportunity to gain an understanding of the role of drug targets in the pathophysiology of disease.
During your industrial placement year you will receive full training & support within our state of the art
facilities in Stevenage to enable you to develop your skills within an industrial environment.
I enjoyed my placement very much! There were lots of other placement students on site and in my office which made it easier to make friends, and my whole team was really lovely! I enjoyed working in the lab and learning new skills- it was a great place to learn because there were experts in lots of different lab techniques in our department. I found I was able to have a good work-life balance, and people liked to socialise in the evening.
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My department was relatively small (around 40 people), so I managed to meet everyone and learn everyone's names, which made it easier to feel valued. Even the head of department would stop and have a chat sometimes. After I'd got used to how everything worked and the lab work, I felt able to contribute well to the team. By the end, people were asking me for advice in how to use the lab equipment I was using and I was able to support them.
I had a placement supervisor who I had weekly meetings with, to talk about how things were going and plan the next week. I could also go to him at any time for help or support. My line manager also kept up to date with what I was working on and we met every couple of months to discuss how it was going.
My business varied from week to week depending on lab work. Once I'd got going (after about a month), I always had something to be working on, and often a back-log of jobs but nothing unmanageable. I always had time for a tea break when needed, and only a couple of times stayed especially late (after 6pm) to finish jobs.
From the start, I was given small jobs to do by myself, with help available at any time. Later, more responsibility was put on me to complete work to timelines, present my own data and organise meetings. I felt that having a weekly check in from my supervisor was enough to make sure I was on the right track, but not too much that I felt micromanaged- I was able to work on things at my own pace.
The presentation and communication skills I have developed will help me in whatever professional situation I end up in. Some lab skills (especially flow cytometry) I will definitely take with me into future research as they are widely applicable. I have also become much more efficient and practiced at writing up lab work which will be very useful in my final year of university and any future research.
We had an open plan, hot-desking office. This meant I could sit with my friends, or with someone I was working with that day. It was easy to get up and ask people questions, and there was a general hum of conversation but it wasn't too loud usually. I enjoyed chatting to the different people who I sat with, even the higher-ups in the office.
GSK has so many placement students that they know what they are doing, and it is very well organised. Everyone has a supervisor and their own project, but placement students are easily integrated into other work going on. Colleagues understand that students may not be as expert in some things, but are willing to help and give us jobs to do.
There were loads of development talks, and I took part in various training courses including: cryogenic safety training, a writing course, flow cytometer training, and much more in the lab. There were also lectures on different science going on inside and outside of GSK, so I could learn about different areas I might be interested in.
I might apply for jobs with GSK in the future as I think it is a great place to learn and develop. However, I would quite like to work for a smaller company in future, or try some different areas of science. The "future leaders" program didn't appeal too much to me as it is more in finance and business.
Yes. I sat with other placement students at lunch, and would often have tea breaks with them, apprentices, and younger colleagues. We would often go to the pub after work, and sometimes did things at the weekend like cinema trips. There was a new years party for students and apprentices which was a lot of fun.
Stevenage was not too expensive to live in, especially given how near to London it is. It's not too expensive socialising in Stevenage but that's partially because there's not loads to do. It's not too pricey a train to go into London for the day but things in London are obviously more expensive.
There are two wetherspoons, a few pubs, and one nightclub that opens on thursdays and saturdays but I never went- I don't think it's that popular. It's possible to go for a night out in London though.
Stevenage is not a university town so there's not a lot going on for young adults. Luckily, I met someone who invited me along to a sword dancing practice- I really enjoyed it and went every week after that! But I was lucky to find something I enjoyed- most people just went to the gym.