This is a photo of Ashly, a Masters student studying MSc Biopharmaceutical Development. She is sitting down in front of a table working on a laptop. There is a lamp next to her which is turned on. She is looking at the camera.

Ashly Shagee

About your course

Why did you choose to come to the University of Leeds to study MSc Biopharmaceutical Development?

I chose to come to Leeds University for this course as it was unique and different compared to the other master’s at different Universities. The opportunity to undertake a placement as part of the course and the fact that the course was taught by industry experts were key factors that made me decide to choose Leeds University. The information provided on the course website along with conversations with academic staff during interview day, really helped me to understand what the course was all about and to gain a glimpse into uni life as a post-grad student. All of these aspects were valuable, and I wanted to do a course that I had an interest at a uni that both supported its students and had a great reputation, hence I chose Leeds University.

What do you enjoy about your course?

The course covers the entire process of drug development and include the manufacturing and commercial aspects parts of it, which I found really interesting. I enjoyed learning and understanding the bigger picture in terms of biopharmaceuticals, as it introduced me to certain parts that I was unaware of or had little knowledge on. There is a lot of group work involved, which I enjoy as it develops key skills and involves working with different people for different assignments. The interaction with the lecturers is also another factor that I appreciate, as they often relate study material to personal experience from the industry, which really helps in understanding how everything fits in in the real world.

What have been the highlights of your course so far?

The lab practicals would be one of the main highlights of the course, as it essentially trains us to become efficient in certain lab skills that we will use for our placement year. The opportunity to repeat practical’s, so we are thorough in our understanding of certain techniques is also valuable and shows the dedication the course has for training us to become industry experts. Another highlight would be the opportunity to visit Fujifilm, where one of the placements will be taking place. This gave us the opportunity to get an inside view of the biopharmaceutical company and what it entails. The tour included visiting labs and seeing equipment’s we were taught about during the lectures. This was helpful in understanding the lecture contents in more depth and gave helpful information on what a potential job will involve at an establishment like this. A visit to the Covance clinical trials unit was also beneficial, as it shows what a potential subject would go through from the moment of recruitment to the end of a particular study. Meeting the various teams involved in a clinical trial and how everything was coordinated and processed showed the realities of a clinical trials unit and made me appreciate the work undertaken there even more.

What has been your greatest challenge so far?

The course while its challenging and academically stimulating can also be a bit intense, but as long as you are putting in independent research and are reading around the subject area, it’s not that bad. Especially as a lot of the assignment involves group work, thus you have your peers’ feedback and help, and the lecturers are always supportive if you are struggling at any particular area.

What is your research project on and what does it involve?

My research project is on Early Phase Development.

How do you think doing a research project has benefited/will benefit you in the future?

The industrial placement ensures you will be essentially fast-tracked for your chosen career in a biopharmaceutical company. It equips you with essential skills required in the field and also develops your knowledge of the drug development procedure. Similarly, it gives you an insight into what a day to day work will be like, and helps you tailor your career plans accordingly, as you will know what you liked and enjoyed and also what you did not.

About the University

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I chose the University of Leeds due to its reputation and because it’s a Russell Group University. Having done an Undergrad degree at another Russell Group Uni, I knew the quality of teaching will be excellent and that a lot of focus and attention will be given to research. Moreover, the course that I was interested in and applied for was unique and catered perfectly to my needs.

What have been the highlights of your time at the University of Leeds?

There is always something to do. Whether if its part of your course or a social, you are never bored.

How have the facilities helped you get the most out of your degree?

The labs practicals fit really well with the course content and taught material and we get to practice techniques used in the industry. This is really helpful as a majority of the course will be spent on the placement year. The libraries are helpful in terms of proving PG spaces and the opportunity to book rooms which are really useful when doing group work. The café’s in and around the libraries mean that we do not need to go far for a break from our work, and always offers good quality food. Although it does not really relate directly to the degree, it is refreshing and puts you in a better mind-set and helps you do your work or be involved in lectures a bit more.

What key aspects of your experience of Leeds would you highlight to students thinking about coming do the same course?

The opportunity to develop new skills and being thorough in certain lab techniques, as this not only helps with the placement but puts you at an advantage for any lab-based job. Being taught by industry experts also helps in your understanding of the course material much better. There is usually a strong rapport between the students and the lecturers, and they are always willing to help plus there are also opportunities to engage with them during course socials or during feedback sessions.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I would like to work in the biopharmaceutical industry in the future where I can take my interest in gene therapy further. The lectures and the practicals as well as the site visit to Fujifilm and the clinical trials unit definitely helped me in reassuring that I knew what the industry was all about and what the different jobs entail.