– I got assigned a specific project, and that was to investigate the dehydration behaviour of pharmaceutical hydrates by utilising both experimental and computational techniques. – This involved a lot of literature search in the beginning, and a lot of training in new laboratory techniques. – I also received a lot of training in new software packages, including computational software. – I spend some days solely in the lab doing experiments and others in the office performing computational experiments. – I interacted with many different scientists throughout my training and research, and I also had a mentor who helped me throughout my placement.
I learned a lot of new laboratory techniques and how to operate many different instruments. These were mainly focused in the field of solid-state chemistry and crystallisation. I also learned how to perform computational calculations, specifically molecular dynamics simulations. My scientific research skills also improved, as my role was research-based. Regarding soft skills, my communication and presentation skills improved a lot as I did a series of internal and external presentations, as well as posters to senior stuff. My ability to manage time and different tasks was also greatly enhanced.
As I said I was given my own research project so I was the only one responsible for its outcome. I was mentored by an industry-expert in the field, but I was the one responsible to decide the scope, the direction and the depth of the project. At first I was guided and shadowed other colleagues in the laboratory but after completing the necessary training and demonstrating autonomy and compliance to the different business practises, I was able to work on whatever experiences I deemed necessary.
I received a lot of support from my line manager as well as my assigned mentor. They both helped me with my initial training, as well as my project. They also helped me with my university duties which included a literature review, a thesis and a presentation. They did a lot of proof reading for me, as well as practice runs for my presentation. The rest of the team was also very helpful. Everyone was willing to help me and show me things in the lab.
The culture is very welcoming and diverse. There were a lot of events and opportunities to meet the other undergraduate placement students, as well as people from from other departments and senior leaders. However, due to COVID most of these events were online. Only near the end of my placement we started having in person events. Working is very flexible, so you can start your day earlier and finish earlier or vice versa. There were also a lot of charity and local community activities (Pfizer gives you an extra 5 days of unpaid leave for you to participate in charity events).
I thoroughly enjoyed my placement, both the scientific research aspect of it, as well as the general environment within our team. It definitely lived up to my expectations and I would say it exceeded them. The research was very interesting but what I loved the most was the culture and the general work environment within our team. Pfizer definitely earns the number one spot in my list of potential employers once I finish my degree.
The pharmaceutical aspect of material sciences is not usually covered in the curriculum of chemistry degrees. Thus, I didn't know most of the things they asked me in my interview. However, they are aware of that and they don't expect you to know everything. They just want to see the way you think. Basically, just say what you think. It doesn't matter if you didn't arrive to the answer, what matters is the way you tried to find it. Also, during the competency based questions don't always mention work/university related examples. Show your personality and that you are a well-rounded person. Try using examples from sports/hobbies or your general life. They want someone that they can easily work with and collaborate, not someone that always mentions work.
Placement Year (10 Months+)