In Conversation With… Alice Ferriday

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In September 2022 Alice Ferriday joined Charnwood Discovery on a 12-month work placement as part of her degree in Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Loughborough University.

We sat down with Alice to discuss her experiences and what she will value most as she approaches the end of her placement.

Where did the interest in chemistry and your degree course begin?

I’d really enjoyed studying sciences at GCSE and from there I took biology, chemistry and maths A Levels. I considered a career in medicine however a spell of work experience in hospital convinced me that working in a different field of healthcare would suit me more. Drug discovery felt like the environment for me and so I decided to concentrate on this for my degree..

You’ve completed two years of your degree, what made you consider an industrial work placement?

There were a couple of reasons really. Most of my university experience has been during covid-19 which severely limited the amount of time I could spend in the teaching labs. I was aware that my lab experience was more limited because of this, and I wanted to increase my level of hands-on chemistry. I also viewed it as a building block for my future career; to give me a better idea of what I want to do in the future; but also, to make the transition into a job smoother having already gained some industry experience.

What brought you to Charnwood Discovery in particular?

Once I had the idea of a year’s placement, I started to attend the careers fairs set up by the University to support finding a suitable employer. I met Kevin Walker (Charnwood Discovery’s Talent Manager) at one of these fairs and had a good conversation about the company and potential placements. I was delighted to see an opportunity come up via the University and applied. Going through the interview process was a little daunting but good experience and I was so happy to be offered the place.

How was the transition from student life to working a 9 to 5 type day?

I’m not going to lie; it was pretty exhausting initially with a different routine to get used to and lots of information to take on-board. I had an induction plan and lots of support from my line manager, Henry and Group Leader, Craig though. They, and many in the wider team, took the time to provide a phased approach to work which built my confidence. Everyone is so approachable and supportive and I really appreciate the time they have taken to teach me and I’ve learned so much from them.

What have you been working on during your time here?

I feel really fortunate to have worked on an internal project throughout my placement as it’s given me the experience of a real drug discovery project without the pressure of it being for a client. I’ve been able to do a mix of chemistry with a more recent focus on medicinal chemistry which is my main area of interest. It’s also allowed me to understand the bigger drug discovery picture as I’ve been exposed to biology, DMPK, computational chemistry and development chemistry, so can see where medicinal chemistry fits into this.

As you start to think about your return to university in the Autumn, what have you gained from your experience here?

Obviously, the hands-on chemistry has been fantastic and filled a gap I felt I had due to covid-19 limiting teaching lab time. I have routine activities that have consolidated my academic learning and will help me when I return for my final year.

More than that though, I’ve become far more confident and can work independently – something I’m looking forward to taking back to the teaching labs. I’ve not always found change easy and coming into a professional workplace was challenging but, with the support provided, I’ve really enjoyed it and feel far more confident about doing this in the future.

The way in which my work has been structured has enabled this. I’ve been given responsibility at an appropriate level and have felt needed and valued but without the pressure of a ‘real’ client project.

You’ve achieved a lot in your time here, is there anything left to ‘tick off’ before you go?

Yes, I’ve decided to challenge myself to speak at one of the regular knowledge sharing sessions. Presenting to lots of people is way out of my comfort zone but it’s something I want to do and that I know will be good experience for the future. Seeing lots of colleagues doing this makes it seem achievable – I may even enjoy it!

And finally, what does the future hold?

This placement has confirmed for me that I want to work in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. One thing I have decided is to make my degree an integrated masters so that I can achieve my MChem. After that I’ll see how I feel; a PhD isn’t on the cards yet, but who knows!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has made me feel so welcome and supported me. I’m making the most of the next three months here!

Everyone at Charnwood Discovery wishes Alice all the best for the future.