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Drug capsules

Associate Researcher


My role involves supervising the making of active ingredients in medicines.

00:01 I work for Pfizer which is the largest pharmaceutical company in the world.

00:04 We make a range of different compounds such as Lipitor, which is anti-cholesterol compound

00:08 and Viagra, which is probably the most famous compound we make.

00:12 So in my department I work for chemical research and development

00:15 and we’re responsible for making drug substance supplies,

00:18 that’s the active ingredient in medicines

00:21 and we make that to fund clinical studies and ultimately to transfer it to manufacturing to fund the marketplace.

00:27 My role in particular I guess is to lead a project team

00:31 to work very closely with analysts and formulators and chemists

00:36 and to really make sure that all aspects of delivering the material

00:40 and delivering the root are looked after and commentated.

00:43 We do pretty much what you’d imagine at school,

00:45 we get round bottomed flasks and we fill them with white solids and different reagents

00:50 and we warm them up and we cool them down and then we analyse to see what we’ve got

00:55 and then we try and isolate compounds. 

00:57 So it’s kind of, for me, it’s a little bit like cooking, you just add ingredients and then you heat it up

01:02 and then hopefully you get the right product out at the end,

01:04 and sometimes it’s like cooking, you know, sometimes

01:06 what you get out the end is exactly what you want

01:08 and other times it’s a complete mess and you have to start again, back to the drawing board.

01:13 I think I really enjoy working with a whole range of different people so,

01:16 you know my job changes every day.

01:18 Sometimes I’m talking to analysts, sometimes I’m talking to formulators, sometimes I’m talking to clinicians,

01:24 and just a whole range of different people, so you know no one day is ever the same in this place, which is good.

01:30 So I left school and I felt I was pretty good at the sciences so I went off to university

01:37 and I studied environmental chemistry, did that for four years in Edinburgh.

01:40 After that I wanted to pursue the chemistry part, the organic synthesis piece,

01:45 so I went off to Nottingham and did a PhD there for three years

01:49 and from that I came straight to Pfizer after that.

01:51 I guess I would try and advise you to, you know,

01:53 if you’ve got a chemistry teacher or something talk to them about the different roles and opportunities there might be

02:01 I guess if you really love the practical side of it

02:05 and you love making things and creating things then it’s a really great job to do.

02:08 So try and talk to someone and maybe look into opportunities to study further,

02:13 university courses or there may be,

02:15 you know, a large pharmaceutical company or a small company near you that

02:19 does chemistry and maybe try and talk to them,

02:23 find out about the different roles that are involved and see how it goes.

02:26 So the company as a whole, globally, is huge.

02:29 I couldn’t put a figure on that.

02:31 On this site I think there are about between 5 and 6 thousand people.

02:35 So, that gives you the magnitude of the different types of people you can interact with every day.

02:39 A whole range of backgrounds, skillsets, the diversity here is just enormous. 

“My job's a bit like cooking - add ingredients in and heat it up, then you hopefully get the right product out at the end. ”

How did I get started?

When I left school I felt I was pretty good at the sciences, so I did four years of environmental chemistry in Edinburgh followed by a PhD in Nottingham where I focused on the chemistry part.

Career progression

I went straight from my PhD to working for the largest pharmaceuticals company in the world, Pfizer.

Skills used

Team Worker, Communication, Management, Problem Solving, Logical Thinker, Practical Lab Skills, IT and Technology, Organisation , Problem Solving, Time Management

“Sometimes it's like cooking in that you get exactly what you want, other times it's a complete mess and you start again, back to the drawing board!”