George was been offered a nine-month contract with Exova, after successfully completing his paid placement with the company through ScotGrad this summer. He shares his story...
What is your background?
I'm originally from Yorkshire, and I attended Ilkley Grammar School and took A levels in Biology Chemistry, Economics and Geography. I enrolled on a Chemistry with Pharmaceutical Chemistry course at Heriot-Watt University in September 2012. Alongside my studies I've been President of my university’s Chemistry Society, Liaison Officer for the Royal Society of Chemistry, taken evening courses in Spanish at the University of Edinburgh, and worked weekends in a clothing store. When I started the placement it was the summer of my third year, I am now entering my final year.
Why did you apply for the CV Competition 2015?
Like most students, the search for summer placements proved a challenge. The vast majority of summer schemes required previous experience in an industrial laboratory, whilst I was confident that I had expertise in lots of different fields and relevant experience from my course, I didn't have any industrial exposure. The CV Competition appealed to me because the placements didn't require you to have the industry experience. Exova operates in the pharmaceutical and health science sector so it also allowed me to further develop my pharmaceutical skills, more so than I could have done on my course.
What did you learn?
As a student, research is something that one would associate primarily with university. However outside the academic bubble, it is one of the key economic drivers and exports of the UK. Working for Exova has made me appreciate this, I have worked on jobs for clients from France to India. An understanding of how contract research organisations operate is something that cannot be taught in class and can only be acquired through first hand experience, something that I am lucky enough to have had.
What projects were you involved in?
In the first week I was put on their new training programme where I was trained in all the tests and techniques that I would require for my placement. As part of my induction I also went on a GMP course, which proved invaluable for the rest of my placement and is something I will carry forward with me into my future career.
During the placement, I was responsible for identity tests of compounds and physical tests. I feel that my training allowed me to work efficiently and I was confident to be working on numerous jobs at the same time. This took pressure off my fellow team members, and colleagues in other teams who were able to focus on only the longer tests.
Would you recommend the programme?
I would recommend the programme to anybody doing a life sciences/chemistry degree. Normally summer placements require you to be in the penultimate year of study, but a huge benefit to the summer placements available through the ScotGrad life sciences CV programme is that you can apply as early as the summer of your first year. ScotGrad offer feedback at every stage of the competition, so even if your application is not successful, you will still receive valuable information on how to develop and improve your CV.
The careers service at my university really helped me out too, they offered great workshops on how to write a CV and develop an effective, structured interview technique.
How has the placement influenced your return to studies?
I am looking forward to starting back at university and completing my honours degree. Following on from my summer placement I have been offered a nine month contract from Exova which will complement my final years study. I really enjoyed my three months working for a Contract Research Organisation and I can definitely see myself working in the field after my studies.
Photo: George Clayton, with Gordon McGuinness (Skills Development Scotland)