Vault Q&A: Research Scientist, Sanofi Aventis
Title: Research Scientist -- "I carry out studies on blood and urine samples collected during clinical trials to determine how a drug has been metabolised in the body."
Number of years at firm: Two
Number of years in current role: Two
Degree (s): Biological Science (2.1) at Warwick University
How did you first decide to enter your industry? What first attracted you?
I wanted to use my degree in a professional environment and to continue doing research. I wasn't able to do that at an academic level and Sanofi Aventis gave me the opportunity to do this in a professional environment. I've actually found that it is better working in this way as you are given real problems to try and deal with.
What are the typical education requirements? What skills and/or experience are important for success?
The degree I did in Biological Science is vital for what I do now. It is important to have a science degree of some kind and the closer you get to something like pharmacology or biology the better. These give you the grounding in the subject material and also provide you with the research skills necessary.
As for other skills, I would say the ability to be patient and being methodical are key to doing well. The research that we do has to be done in a very proper way. Otherwise we won't be getting scientifically valid results. Paying attention to detail and being strict are also important skills to have on board.
What is the typical career path in your industry?
You get assigned to different projects and due to the nature of testing and retesting, the process can take a number of years. Some people have been known to leave research altogether and become consultants within the pharmaceutical industry.
What is the best part of your job?
Whenever I tell people what I do, people assume that I will be producing the new cure for cancer or some new wonder drug. However, the reality is that drug research takes a long time but it is very rewarding when you make those small breakthroughs. A new drug that comes out will be the product of several people building on top of other people's work and it is rewarding to know that you are part of that process.
What is your least favourite part of your job?
The methodical and clinical way in which the job is done can really seem quite laborious and pedantic on some days but it's ultimately vital that we do this so that we do a good job. How relevant is your education to what you are doing today?
It is very relevant indeed. Doing Biological Sciences really gave me a good foundation for what I do now. The research skills that I picked up during my time on the course are very necessary in my day-to-day job. Not many people in the lab did the degree I did but they are all quite similar in their nature and this means that everyone has a scientific grounding of some kind and is able to work in a methodical and scientific way.
Can you offer any advice to graduates seeking a career in your industry?
Try to get as much lab experience as possible as it is the only way to know if you are suited to working in an environment like this. As I've already said, you have to have a certain mentality to work in a lab and it's often not very exciting. Therefore, you need to keep your concentration up and always make sure that you are doing things correctly.
What is something unusual that they might not know?
Working for Sanofi Aventis is great as there is a Sports and Social Club that organises a programme of events throughout the year, such as theatre visits, go-karting, ten-pin bowling and shopping trips.
What is your best perk?
It is probably the fact that I know that I am working on products that will be of use to people across the world and for many generations to come. There is a lot of work that is involved in my job but it is very rewarding.