A little bit about me
My name is Shiv and I’m a summer student at R&D Inhaled Drug Product Development and Design in Ware. I was born and raised in South London and currently study Pharmacy at the University of Bath. Like any normal student pharmacist, I spent my first two summers working in a community pharmacy. Seeing the way I was able to help patients have a better quality of life was extremely rewarding, however I felt like I wasn’t being challenged. I wanted to apply more of the scientific skills I was being taught to a larger number of patients. That’s why for my third-year summer I applied to the GSK R&D Summer Student Experience. The idea of being able to work at a company where their products help millions of patients globally was exciting.
So far, I’ve been responsible for 2 projects. (This differs from the normal single project summer students are assigned, with my projects having a slightly lighter workload comparatively). The first project involves using a semi-automated capsule filling machine and figuring out its capabilities and “pushing it to its limits.” The second project involves using novel technology combined with classic Next Generation Impaction (NGI) and HPLC to better discriminate between DPI drug blends in terms of aerosolised particle size distribution. At first, I found the independence and time management daunting and difficult. Only nearing the end of placement do I feel like my feet are finally under me. Compared to my first day here, I’ve learnt how to manage my workload, independently solve problems and work with others. I also feel as if I have a better appreciation for the work carried out at GSK and how everyone is working for the ultimate benefit of the patient.
The training involved with my projects has been great as well. At the start of this experience I wanted to be more comfortable working in a laboratory on my own in preparation for my master’s thesis. Now I feel more than ready to tackle future laboratory projects. The highlight of this for me has been learning how to use NGI in combination with HPLC. The advantage of industry is that you get to see and use the equipment you learn theoretically about at university.
On top of my projects I’ve had the chance to develop my interpersonal skills; I’ve learnt how to schedule meetings, effectively network and ask for help when needed. GSK also has a great social culture. I’ve been able to ‘arrange a coffee’ (you’ll drink a lot of coffee during your placement) with all the different people I’ve wanted to meet whilst on my placement. Everyone has been friendly and more than willing to chat. With the internal directory and Skype for business it has also been relatively easy. The foosball tables in the canteen are also provide a fun way to bond with the other summer students during lunch.
My top tips for a new summer placement student
Based on my own experiences, my four top tips for future summer students would be:
- Prioritise networking – to a degree, you can learn about industry techniques from a textbook in your own time. The people you meet and the connections you form are unique to GSK and much more important. Don’t be put off by titles or ranks – talk to anyone and everyone. (Having a LinkedIn helps for keeping these contacts once you leave GSK after the placement.)
- Remember this is a learning experience – guilty of not doing this myself, remember that you are there as a student. Enjoy the experience and do not get too wound up in hitting all your project outcomes. Be kind to yourself – as a student you will not be expected to know everything.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help – if you’re ever unsure or stuck, reach out! As long as you’ve first tried solving the issue yourself and put in the effort, the majority of people are happy to help. People are friendlier than you think.
- Keep a daily log – keep a daily log of what you’ve done and more importantly your experiences. This should let you reflect upon your development during this experience. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you forget what you’ve done.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time at GSK so far. It’s gone by so fast I can barely believe it. Going forward I’m hoping to graduate and be accepted onto the GSK Pre-Registration Program for pharmacists. My eventual aim as a pharmacist is to have ‘one foot in industry, the other in community.’ Hopefully this would be with GSK.
I hope you’ve found this short insight into how I’ve found my summer placement helpful and good luck with your application!