Sartorius Stedim BioOutsource Limited
As one of the successful candidates of the Life Sciences programme in 2014, Liam shares his placement experience and how this led to more opportunities than he expected.
What is your background?
I’m a 21 year old from Glasgow, and I am currently in my final year studying Cell and Molecular Biology at GCU. I applied for the CV competition in 2014 and was granted a technical placement at BioOutsource Limited (now Sartorius Stedim BioOutsource Limited). Having previous experience in clinical laboratory settings, this placement would help me increase my awareness of the life sciences sector and hone my technical lab skills. I had always been interested in science from a young age and aim to continue into a PhD in molecular biology after graduating this year. I am currently involved in research into connexin mutations and the pathologies they entail.
Why did you apply to the programme?
I applied because I wanted to stand out from the crowd when it comes to graduate employment. I also wanted to get first-hand experience of working in industry to confirm what direction I would like to take my career, be it academic or industry-based. Aside from this, I had no CV as such until then and didn’t really know what it should be like. Workshops ran by the programme (through careers services) showed me what the perfect CV should contain and how to successfully handle yourself in an interview situation.
What projects were you involved in?
At BioOutsource I was tasked to validate and optimise a suite of qPCR assays in order to increase the company’s offerings to their clients. I was also expected to carry out other day-to-day tasks such as routine mammalian cell culture, DNA and RNA extractions and virus titres. Aside from my main task of validating qPCR assays, I also ran a cleaning validation project and an analysis of cell line contamination using conventional PCR with gel endpoint electrophoresis. After completing my placement BioOutsource in 2014, they welcomed me back as an intern for a second summer the year later. This time I was tasked with the trialling of an automated nucleic acid extraction instrument and the design of a protocol that could be offered to clients in lieu of more laborious manual extraction techniques. On top of this I also carried out a variety of client-based assays and in vitro cell culture techniques which allowed me to build on what I had learned during my previous year at BioOutsource.
What are the key benefits of the programme?
The programme is an excellent way to get yourself noticed by employers. In the year after my 2014 placement I was invited to various networking events and dinners to meet with employers and influential bodies in the sector. I was also asked to speak at university information sessions concerning the 2015 competition, which again allowed me to meet and chat with employers from all over the country. With the placements on offer through this programme your employability can increase ten-fold, just by having a brief 12-week stint with an employer. Even for those who are not successful in gaining a placement, the workshops that are run and the information sessions provided will allow for you to learn how to create the perfect CV that stands out from the crowd and how to conduct yourself with employers. Without these sessions I don’t believe I would have been successful in this programme.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to other students?
Apply even if you think you won’t get anywhere. When I started I had no CV, no interview experience and no real knowledge of the life sciences industry. You’ll pick all of this up as the programme progresses, and if you’re determined you will get somewhere. Even if you just learn how to put together a CV, or just to meet some employers to get your name out there, it’s all worthwhile!
How did your placement influence your return to your studies?
Upon my return to 3rd year after my 2014 placement, my technical skills had been raised beyond what I could hope for. The experience made me a more proficient worker in practical sessions and the theoretical knowledge I had learned from my colleagues helped tremendously with my coursework. Working day-to-day next to such esteemed colleagues opened my eyes to the opportunities out there for me when I graduate and speaking to those who had taken the route to PhD only affirmed my wish to pursue one.