Student working at GSK under supervision to gain insight into pharmaceutical industry and what it is like to work for GSK.
My placement at GSK provided me with fantastic insight into R&D in the pharmaceutical industry and allowed me to develop my scientific skills. I particularly enjoyed presenting my work to different departments and being able to talk with other scientists, as well as making new friends with other placement students. Although I have found my interest lies outside of the department I was placed in, I have definitely been inspired to carry on with science in the future.
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Everyone in my department was really nice and did a great job in welcoming the new placement students. When presenting, I felt as though my audience was engaging with what I had to say. I think most people at GSK value placement students as they want to inspire us to continue in science just as much as we want to be inspired by them. My supervisor ensured I was doing work that would be useful to the department so my work was mostly relevant and respected.
Although I felt supported throughout my placement, I feel I would have benefitted from a little more guidance on my project. When it came to planning for my project, I felt lost and I believe with a bit more guidance I would've felt better and been more productive. However, my supervisor always had my best interests at heart and did an amazing job giving me opportunities to learn and grow in order to reach personal objectives set at the start of the year.
I was never bored on placement. I was always busy doing things. I was in the lab a lot but even outside the lab, the department organised a journal club for us which involved reading and analysing a paper every month. Although the business was overwhelming at times and I was worried I wouldn't get everything done, I was grateful for the experience I had and was grateful for the extra experience I gained getting involved in a few side projects.
I was given a good amount of responsibility. I was given responsibility for my own work and due to the group I was in, I helped other people when needed which was a good experience. With some more guidance on project so I had a clear idea of what I would need to do, I think I could've taken on almost complete responsibility for my project. Ultimately I think I had less responsibility at GSK than I thought I had so I put a bit too much stress on myself.
This placement experience was invaluable. The skills I have gained this year will serve me well in the final year of university and beyond. I was able to develop my written and verbal communication skills, critical literary analysis skills, my presentation skills, lab skills and experiment planning. I now have insight into how R&D in the pharma industry operates. I have also been able to network with other scientists and learning about the business side of R&D. Finally, I was introduced to fields such as computer programming for data visualisation and analysis which seemed impossible for me to use before, whereas now I see the potential value these skills can bring and have a desire to learn for my own benefit. Ultimately, this placement has opened my eyes to all the possibilities given to you in a career in science and has inspired me to keep learning and keep growing. I cannot thank GSK enough for the opportunity.
The atmosphere was very comfortable. It was a very large open plan office with around a hundred desks. There were no restrictions on talking in the office but it wasn't too noisy. Most people were friendly and chatty, however when I needed to sit down and concentrate I felt I was able to do so. Having a lab based placement meant I spent relatively little time in the office, but on the whole it was a nice place to be.
My department at GSK did a really good job organising our group training when we first started. Social events were also well organised to make everyone feel included. My experience at the assessment day and welcome day arranged by SRG was also good. Everything seemed to go smoothly and I was given sufficient information prior to attendance. The holiday calculator was difficult to follow but SRG were also good at replying to emails with queries.
At department meetings there would be activities to discuss inclusivity and diversity, work performance, resilience, leadership, team work etc. Particularly as a student, I was encouraged to attend workshops on further education/ career progression as part of their "Keep Growing in R&D" campaign. The department also set up a journal club to help develop our critical analysis skills. GSK also invest in LinkedIn learning as an online platform for personal development and training in data analysis etc.
I would like to go back to GSK at some point in my career. Aside from the future leader programme, GSK do not seem keen on taking students straight from their undergraduate degree (especially in R&D). Most jobs advertised by GSK require a Masters or PhD. There is a large turnover of staff at GSK so different job opportunities come up regularly which is encouraging. GSK R&D do not usually offer placement students jobs for when they graduate whereas a smaller organisation might.
The department had a social committee who arranged semi-regular socials for us. My group within the department also liked to go out for lunch occasionally which was nice. Often for someone's birthday we would meet in the late morning/ afternoon for coffee and cake. Overall IPs were quite social, either meeting informally at a pub or a bar or attending socials arranged by IP Unite. I made lots of friends while on placement and enjoyed myself.
Cost of living was cheaper in Stevenage than I am used to as I got to University of Bath. Rent for a shared house was a lot cheaper and drinks in the pub were cheaper. However, house shares were fairly rare as Stevenage is not a student town and studios/ 1-2 bed apartments were a lot more expensive. As Stevenage was so close to London and Cambridge, I spent quite a lot of money on train tickets for various socials in these cities.
Nightlife in Stevenage was dreadful. Stevenage had about 3 bars and 1 club and it was a bit dodgy. Spoons was the best evening/ night destination but that gets old very quickly. We were close to London but London is exceptionally expensive. I would not recommend Stevenage as a destination if nightlife is a priority as there are little to no options. The train into London was not too bad and the last train was at ~2am.
GSK had football teams and other sports teams for colleagues and students to get involved in. There were a few socials organised by the social committee for after work/ during lunch hours. Local clubs/ activities were advertised heavily at the site too. Work/life balance was encouraged at GSK so I had time to go to the gym most evenings after work. Some of my friends were learning to drive while on placement and their supervisors were flexible about allowing them to leave site to have lessons.