Don’t Put your Lab Coat Away Just Yet…

To be honest with you, the idea of placements used to (and still does) scare me; mostly because of the number of let downs I’ve been faced with. During the summer of my second year, I undertook a laboratory studentship at the Guy Hilton Research Centre. So why was this important to me? I would like to shed light on the transferrable skills that pharmacy students (and eventually pharmacists) have. I am interested in the Pharmaceutical industry and have been ever since I started my course. On one hand, that was good for me as it shaped my career aspirations and made things clear. However, relevant student placements and CV building opportunities in the industry are scarce. I was looking for something different, something that would truly put the science aspects of the course under the spotlight and show me the ways by which pharmacists can be integrated within a research environment. So, with a little help from my school, I reached out to a professor and inquired about the studentship opportunity he was offering to pharmacy students in his research on anticancer compounds from plants.

As pharmacy students our knowledge of Chemistry, both organic and analytical, and Pharmacology is key in understanding a wide spectrum of scientific procedures, experimental results and laboratory protocols. I was the only undergraduate Pharmacy student and to be honest, it felt pretty good to be able to answer questions on things like NMR, HPLC and chemical structures. We are always told just how diverse this profession is and I was able to experience it first-hand. My work involved conducting cytotoxic assays with a PhD student in the cell culture lab; one I had never been in before. My background information on cytotoxic assays was close to null. However, what I had were the building blocks of cellular processes and pharmacology which are already embedded deep in the MPharm curriculum. Those were enough to enable me to cope and learn effectively. What was initially the thing that scared me the most turned out to be the best part of the internship! Even calculation skills are valued and transferrable. It was a great opportunity for me to perform calculations on the spot and without prior preparations: good practice for the future. The experience also gave me a taste of what an end year project would be like as I had to write a report on my mini project. This involved analysing and screening a marine sponge for anticancer activity. In a nutshell, I was able to enhance my laboratory skills, practice analysing data, deliver a scientific report on my findings, strengthen my calculation skills and appreciate the role of analytical chemistry in research.

If there is one thing that you can take from my experience, it’s that far more opportunities exist than you think! All you need to do is to put yourself out there and search for ways by which you can enhance your skills and apply them in new, and perhaps uncommon, environments. It would be enriching both for you and your beloved C.V.!

Leila Assaad
3rd Year Pharmacy Student at Keele University

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