Biological Sciences student at University of Leeds

Laura Wallen

Why did you decide to do a year in industry?

I was unsure of whether I wanted to pursue a PhD or graduate job after I graduated and decided the best way to make the decision was to take part in a year of hands on scientific experience to see if I wanted to follow that route in the future. I did my industrial placement in the Biopharm R&D Department of GlaxoSmithKline based in Stevenage.

Could you describe a typical day on your placement?

After a few weeks of shadowing I was very much in control of my day to day routine, which I loved.  I always felt supported by my colleagues and had a weekly meeting with my supervisor to update them on my project.  I never felt uncomfortable with the responsibility I had been given as if I had any questions there was always someone happy to help nearby.  My project involved tissue culture and molecular biology so I often planned my day so I would spend a few hours in the office with the majority of my time in the labs.  As I was in control of my time management I was able to plan my time around any scheduled meetings or seminars I wanted to watch, as well as my lunch break!

What opportunities has your industrial placement opened up to you? 

I still keep in contact with colleagues from my placement year and I made sure I utilised my year as much as possible by talking to other departments such as Patents and Marketing to see whether those roles were more suited to my skill set and arranging opportunities to visit other GSK sites.  I also updated my CV before I finished my placement and arranged some mentoring sessions with senior members of staff to make sure I left my placement prepared for the future. My placement year was one of my favourite years I’ve done while at University.  As I was working for GSK there was a large student presence so I lived in a house with other students from my placement so it still felt like I was at University. It was an amazing experience and I am in so much of a better position career wise for doing it.

We want other students at Leeds to know what an exciting opportunity the year in industry is. What was the real highlight for you?

The highlight of my year in industry was seeing the end results of my project and being able to see my hard work had paid off.  I thought I would struggle with the adjustment to full time work but I loved it!  The support I received was fantastic and it was an amazing opportunity to meet some remarkable scientists and make some lifelong friendships.

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

I’ve really enjoyed my course, by doing Biological Sciences I’ve been able to do little bits of other courses such as Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry before specialising as each year has gone on based on what topics I enjoyed most.  This course offers the opportunity to do a sandwich placement year, which I highly recommend, or a masters so I think it caters to a lot of people’s interests.

What are your ambitions for the future? Do you have specific career plans? Has the University (careers centre/lecturers etc.) helped you with these goals in any way? 

My placement year helped me decide a PhD wouldn’t suit me so I pursued graduate opportunities and have been offered a graduate job in the civil service.  I really recommend using the careers centre offered by the university as they were really helpful with CV and application checking when I was applying for placements, as well as mock interviews.  Without the continual support I received from Leeds University and my colleagues on my placement I doubt I would have been able to achieve as much as I have done in my degree and I doubt I would have enjoyed it half as much!