Winner: 2021 Chemical Sciences Apprentice of the Year
For notable contributions to the process development of two novel HIV drugs whilst delivering inclusion and diversity programmes and leadership development activities.
Celebrate Erin Maciejewski
Erin works within Chemical Development, a multi-functional department at GSK that consists of expertise from chemistry, chemical engineering and materials science groups. The department allows the scale up of new drug candidates from the milligram scale to the multi-kilogram scale. This process allows enough drug to be manufactured so that tablets can be pressed and doctors can prescribe the new drug to patients.
Her role as a process chemist involves working collaboratively with mentors and colleagues to develop and optimise reaction processes in order to take the process from milligrams to multi-kilograms whilst improving the reaction methodology, drug quality and robustness. All of this work allows for eventual transfer and use in manufacturing plants to produce tonnes of material for formulation into the final drug product that patients are prescribed.Read winner biography
Erin joined GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in September 2019, after completing her A-levels. She is currently in the second year of her apprenticeship within the Chemical Development (ChemDev) department at GSK in Stevenage, studying for a FdSc in Applied Chemical Sciences at the University of Kent, whilst gaining experience from her mentors in the field of chemical development.
When deciding which higher education avenue to take upon the completion of her A-levels, Erin chose to pursue a chemistry apprenticeship in the pharmaceutical industry. She developed a passion for organic chemistry during her A-levels and then in pharmaceutical chemistry after the completion of an extended project on the applications of nanotechnology within oncology treatments.
Under the guidance of her mentors within the multi-functional ChemDev department, her passion for chemistry was further ignited during the process development and scaling up of two HIV drug candidates in the late stage of pharmaceutical development to allow the transfer of robust processes to the GSK pilot plants for clinical supply. Erin is currently on secondment to the chemical engineering group within ChemDev to further develop her interest in process engineering and continuous manufacturing.
During her time at GSK, she has also been involved in a variety of other initiatives. These include: STEM outreach activities; being a departmental representative for the Modern Employer initiative representing the ‘Be You’ pillar which advocates inclusion and diversity; and contributing to the department's contingency plans for COVID-19 secure lab work.
How did you first become interested in chemistry?
I was initially drawn to chemistry by the practical aspect and hands-on learning approach I was able to take within the classroom. This is what influenced me to undertake an apprenticeship instead of a more traditional academic route since it would enable me to gain much more practical experience.
What motivates you?
I’m naturally curious, so I enjoy having the freedom to explore and develop concepts in conjunction with people who always encourage me to continue to contribute my ideas regardless of the outcome. Knowing I have the trust and backing of my team when exploring new avenues makes a real difference when investigating new approaches to challenges we face.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in chemistry?
I’d give them the same advice that I’ve been given:
- any work experience is good experience
- learn as much as you can from those who have gone before you
- observation is a key part of learning
- don’t be afraid of making mistakes, you can learn a lot from failed reactions
- pass on what you’ve learnt
What has been a highlight for you (either personally or in your career)?
The highlight of my career so far was to achieve European approval for Rukobia and knowing that my work contributed to the successful regulatory filing of a first-in-class treatment for adults with multi-drug resistant HIV-1 infection whose antiretroviral therapies would otherwise fail.
What has been a challenge for you (either personally or in your career)?
Starting my apprenticeship was certainly a steep learning curve, having come straight from school into an environment where I am surrounded by such highly qualified and successful individuals. So, I’ve definitely had to learn to be more confident in myself and my abilities along with recognising how the different learning experiences I have had can bring a different skill set and perspective to the table.
How are the chemical sciences making the world a better place?
Behind every patient there is always a network of family and friends who can take comfort in the knowledge that improved treatment is continually being developed through our shared knowledge of the sciences.
I’m fortunate enough to work within an area where, every day, I see these novel molecules being developed for use as new medicines.
Why do you think teamwork is important in science?
Collaboration is a key part of success. In my experience, a series of diverse minds give many more creative and effective solutions than working in an isolated bubble. Equally, this gives everyone an opportunity to learn from each other and to act as a sounding board for ideas that may not otherwise ever be heard or explored.
Successful organisations don’t want everyone to think with the same mindset, they want a diverse team, which can be found in an inclusive matrix where everyone’s voices and views matter.