Antibody Discovery Scientist at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
PhD Immunology & Immunotherapy, 2020
Please tell us a bit about your current role.
My role involves performing therapeutic antibody lead discovery, selection, optimisation, and engineering to support GSK's internal antibody drug discovery programs by using cutting-edge in vitro and in vivo technologies. A significant portion of my PhD project involved discovering rare antibodies from patient samples which made me realise that I wanted to build on this experience but in a fast-moving industry environment. The recruitment process for this role was quite straightforward which included an online application, two phone interviews and an on-site interview (pre-COVID).
What motivated you to do your postgraduate research course?
I aspired for a career in discovering and developing therapeutics to ultimately contribute to new treatments for patients. I enjoyed learning about our immune response to infection and disease during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies, and doing a PhD, for me at the time, was the right step towards achieving my career goal.
What do you enjoy most and what do you find challenging about your role?
I enjoy that there is variety in the work I do. There is lots to learn about new therapeutic targets coming through for antibody discovery, the technologies we currently have and how we can improve them to shorten our timelines and get the drugs faster to patients. On the flip side, because there is variety, it can be challenging to spend a significant amount of time to really interrogate a target to satisfy your own scientific curiosity.
How did your time at Birmingham help you prepare for this role?
In addition to my PhD training, the Careers Network at the University of Birmingham was very important in opening my eyes to careers outside of academia. Over the years, I attended many workshops and events organised by the experienced and well-placed staff at the Careers Network that assist PGRs in finding the right career. 1-to-1 sessions also helped me identify my primary area of career interest and my suitability for potential jobs.
What advice would you give to students interested in further study?
My advice for someone considering doing a PhD would be to roughly know what you want to achieve from this process as undertaking a PhD can be incredibly challenging, but equally rewarding. Having a goal in mind can help you stay focused and motivated during your PhD. Also, please remember that PhD is a training qualification and you do not have to know everything!
What advice would you give to students interested in getting into your industry or role?
My advice would be to start by looking into the variety of research-based roles that are available within industry, and this includes if you want to aim for big pharma, bio-techs, or start-ups. Identify your key skills, experiences, strengths, and weaknesses and tailor your applications to really highlight what you can bring to the role. Do not undersell yourself. Take advantage of the valuable support and opportunities provided by the Careers Network to help you navigate the world of job applications during and even after completing your studies.