A Future in Chemistry - Your career starts here
Smoking beaker

Chemical Industrial Placement

Rio Hutchings

I moved into a chemistry role with a major company after a work placement.

00:00 Basically, I’ve started since September, it’s a year-long placement

00:04 you join a team, my team consists of five people, you work very closely with your supervisor,

00:10 and your job is basically pretty similar to everyone else’s,

00:13 I mean obviously as you’re a student you don’t know quite as much as everyone else but you’re still doing the same job,

00:19 on the day-to-day basis you’ll still go to the meetings and you’re still working in the lab,

00:23 alongside with the rest of your team.

00:25 On a day-to-day basis, you have like a target structure

00:29 that you want to make and you can break down that molecule and do retrosynthetic analysis on it

00:36 and it can take you back to the starting materials, so basically you know the recipe that you want to follow to make that molecule,

00:43 so along the way you might do like a reflux,

00:48 reflux it to make the compound, and then once you’ve got it you need to purify it so maybe do a re-crystallisation,

00:54 or something like that, or column it to purify it.

00:57 We also use various other techniques to characterise it like NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) and LC-MS (liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry)

01:03 Sometimes I have used infrared spectroscopy as well to characterise my compounds.

01:08 After my GCSEs I studied A levels,

01:11 I did A level maths, chemistry and English literature and also AS level general studies.

01:16 Once I’d passed those, I went to York University where I studied chemistry

01:21 which had an industrial placement in the final year.

01:23 So this is my final year now, I actually graduate in a couple of weeks’ time,

01:27 and after I graduate I’m coming back to GlaxoSmithKline where I start my graduate job as an organic chemist.

01:32 The skills that you need to do this job, you need communication skills,

01:36 you need to be able to work in a team, you work very closely with your other team members because you’re working on the same project.

01:42 The work, if you’re not in the lab, you’re at your desk,

01:45 so you need IT skills, you need to be able to use, like, Word, Excel and other

01:51 programmes that we use, other chemical drawing packages and stuff like that.

01:55 Once you’re in the lab you need synthetic skills, you need your practical skills,

02:00 that I’ve learnt at university and also at A level from A level practicals.

02:03 And all those, I use every single day,

02:06 from putting reactions together to planning my reactions.

02:11 As a student you do work closely with a supervisor but you are expected to be able to plan your reactions.

02:16 Time management also is a key skill that I’ve used this year as well.

02:21 I’ve enjoyed meeting all the new people,

02:24 When you’re at university, you’re around lots of other students, but coming into industry

02:27 you’re working, there are other students here, but you’re also working with people who have been in the industry for like twenty years,

02:33 so you’re meeting people who have got loads of experience, you can learn a lot from them.

02:38 I’ve just enjoyed the job, I like making compounds, I like the synthetic side and I just find it interesting.

02:45 The advice that I’d give to people is obviously, you need to have the right education.

02:50 I did A level chemistry so you obviously need that

02:53 Do a chemistry degree,

02:56 and in that chemistry degree I actually took some pharmaceutical courses.

03:00 I studied medicinal chemistry, I’ve also studied some protein chemistry as well which has helped me do that.

03:07 Once you’ve got that, I wanted to come and do the placement in my final year,

03:12 most universities do offer that, so I looked into doing an industrial placement day and looked into coming to work here at GlaxoSmithKline.

03:19 In the future I hope still to be working with GlaxoSmithKline because I thoroughly enjoy it.

03:25 I will start, obviously, as a graduate and hopefully I will work myself

03:29 through the system and hopefully become a team leader,

03:33 get a bit more responsibility within the company and many more years of research.

03:38 Having studied for my degree, I’ve now got a career which I’ll be in, hopefully, for the rest of my life so I’ve got a stable job, hopefully.

03:46 I will be earning quite a fair bit of money, so I can live comfortably,

03:51 and unfortunately I am earning a lot more money than my friends who haven’t studied up to degree level and I’m doing a job that I really, really enjoy.

“After I graduate I'm coming back to GlaxoSmithKline where I start my job as an organic chemist. ”

How did I get started?

After my GCSEs I did chemistry at A level. I then went on to York University where I did chemistry, securing an industrial placement in my final year.

Career progression

It's been very straightforward, with an industrial placement at GlaxoSmithKline whilst doing my chemistry degree, with the promise of a job after graduation with the same company.

Skills used

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

“Having studied for my degree I've now got a career which I'll be in for the rest of my life. I've got a stable job and I'll be earning quite a fair bit of money so I can live comfortably.”