Drawn to chemistry because of its applications in health, Louise went on to become a project manager in her mid-20s.
Finding out 'why?'
Louise didn’t fully realise her passion for chemistry until she chose to study it at university. At school, she had great chemistry teachers and enjoyed the subject because she was able to understand it: “Chemistry was something I was good at - everyone enjoys the topics they’re good at.”
At college, Louise’s interest in chemistry dwindled and she hoped to become a vet. But with the competitiveness for university places and finding college difficult, she didn’t achieve the grades needed. Health-related sciences always appealed to her, whether this was with an animal or human application, so she decided to study chemistry at university. Here, her love for the subject was reignited.
“The best thing about university is you can’t really do the work wrong. As long as you know the concepts, you can express these in numerous ways. This was the opposite of college.”
Once at university, Louise’s biggest challenge was learning the vast amount of organic reactions. To tackle this, she used a learning style taught to her at school, and soon found that mechanisms and pushing curly arrows could be fun:
“I overcame my problems with organic chemistry by using posters and colour coding; writing the names of key reactions and rules to remember. My high school teacher, Miss Knowles, told us to use posters and I have ever since! Putting them up in my room in the halls of residence was a good way to make the room more colourful, as well as recapping all those important reactions for your exam just before going to sleep.”
Networking is key
After working for Penn Pharmaceutical Services as an analyst, Louise became a project manager. She now supervises client-based projects, mostly relating to analytical stability studies of medicines. She oversees all actions and people involved in the processes associated with projects, including initiating projects, client interaction, investigations into deviations, and holding internal stakeholder meetings.
What Louise enjoys most about her job is interacting with different subject specialists on a day to day basis.
“To network outside your team is good, not only to enhance relationships with different sectors but to learn about subject-specific sectors and how the whole business is run. It broadens your awareness of just how important each stage of the supply chain is.”
For anyone considering a career in chemistry, Louise emphasises the need to network and get involved in external activities. She believes that, by building on the foundation of knowledge from a university degree through attending conferences and meeting people, skills can be developed to help you enter whatever industry you want.
“Networking has proved useful for me. It helps you to appreciate that everyone you meet is different, both personally and career-wise. I think meeting people who have had different experiences is interesting – you may consider a career pathway you hadn’t before.”
Chemistry is a broad subject – the possibilities are endless
“The best thing about chemistry is that you can deviate from a lab-based role. You can specialise in other areas, as I have, becoming more business-orientated but still using your chemical knowledge.”
Louise advises to keep looking for opportunities to expand your knowledge, network and seek new projects within your own company, no matter how big or small.
“If you have a keen interest and desire to enhance your career, employers will like this. If you want to progress, you most likely will.”
Words by Jenny Lovell
Images courtesy of Louise Harris
Published June 2015