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Analytical Scientist

Mark Jackman

I quality check drugs, testing them for impurities.

00:16 My particular branch is pharmaceuticals, we look at the drug substance.

00:21 So we look to make the drug from basic building blocks,

00:24 and ensure the quality of this drug substance is suitable for use in clinical trials.

00:32 So we get the drug and we have to look for possible impurities in there,

00:36 so we have a wide variety of analytical techniques that we use,

00:40 separation science, we look at spectroscopy to see the low levels of impurities possible,

00:45 possibly things which could cause harm if they went into patients.

00:48 We can analyse these down to really low levels,

00:50 parts per billion in some cases.

00:56 We’re not doing the same analysis over and over again.

01:00 One day I might be releasing a drug from a pilot plant

01:06 and they might make like 200 kilos of drug,

01:08 and the next day I might be helping a student project out.

01:10 So days are quite different.

01:15 The way I got into analytical chemistry, or chemistry as a whole

01:18 was I did chemistry, maths and physics at A level

01:23 I did chemistry at York,

01:26 with a year in industry I came here

01:28 and really enjoyed the job,

01:30 it really seemed to fit in to the sort of thing I wanted to do.

01:33 I enjoyed the challenges, I enjoyed the problem solving

01:35 and it just stayed from there,

01:37 and I’ve been here about ten years now.

01:42 Skills we think you’ll need for this job,

01:44 I think you need to be pragmatic.

01:46 a lot of the things we do,

01:48 if we’re looking to make fast analysis,

01:50 so if we’re say for example in the plant,

01:52 and they want to know as quick as possible their reaction’s completed,

01:54 you want a method which is quick,

01:56 so you need to really be able to pick ‘what do I actually need to do here?’

02:00 If you can do that, you’ve won half the battle.

02:03 Logical thought helps, making sure you make the right decisions.

02:08 If you can do those two things,

02:10 you wouldn’t do a bad job at it.

02:15 If you want to get into this job

02:17 or I think most jobs in the chemistry sector,

02:20 the year in industry I think can be one of the better ways to do it.

02:24 It can be like a year-long interview.

02:26 If you enjoy the company you work for,

02:28 these guys see for a year, see what you’re doing,

02:30 and it’s best to make the most of it.

02:32 Working as an analyst there’s many different things you can do,

02:36 so like at AstraZeneca you can go down management path or the scientific ladder.

02:40 So what this means is that hopefully,

02:43 your strength will be utilised, whatever that is.

02:46 So if you’re great working in project teams you can go to project management.

02:49 If you prefer to be on your own

02:51 and prefer to just get stuck into your sciences,

02:54 there’s the scientific route which you can take.

02:59 The thing I like about the job,

03:01 I think it feels like there are constant challenges.

03:07 It’s sort of like puzzle solving.

03:09 If you’ve got to look for,

03:11 you might have an impurity we’re worried might be toxic or cause harm,

03:14 we might have to look for this in a drug down to, sometimes, parts in a billion,  

03:18 and that’s a real challenge.

03:21 So it’s knowing and having the skill to find what that challenge is

03:24 and to actually use the right instrumentation

03:26 to try and find the right answer.

03:29 Now at the end of it when you can actually do this,

03:32 you can get the answers you need, what helps projects move forward,

03:35 that’s a big thing.

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“If you want to get into this job, or I think most jobs in the chemistry sector, I think the year in industry can be one of the better ways to do it. It can be like a year-long interview.”

How did I get started?

Chemistry was one of the A levels I took before I moved on to York University to do chemistry. As my year in industry I went to AstraZeneca.

Career progression

After my year in industry, I joined up with AstraZeneca and have been there for ten years. As an analyst like me there are several options, whether you want to move into project management or get stuck in and go down a more scientific route.

“There are constant challenges. It feels like puzzle-solving, so if we've got to look for an impurity which might be toxic, we may have to look for this down to one part in a billion.”