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On placement as a Medicinal Chemistry student

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Published: December 10, 2021

Hi everyone, I am Moesha Ezeala, a Medicinal Chemistry Student at the University of Sunderland. I took part in a placement year at Sterling Pharma Solutions in Dudley, Northumberland.

A student working in the Analytical Lab

Sterling Pharma is a pharmaceutical company which specialises in active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacture and development, alongside engineering, quality control and research and development. When I was in my second year of university, before I was even aware of placements, my goals included finishing my bachelors degree and maybe progress onto a masters. One day my lecturer gave us a presentation on placement years and explained the opportunities that they can open up for students. After I attained all the relevant information for placement years I started to apply. These companies included AstraZeneca, GSK, High force and Fujifilm diosynth Biotechnologies where I applied to work in oncology or small molecule synthesis and biology with chemistry.. After a long wait, I was unsuccessful for the AstraZeneca and GSK placements but due to COVID, Fujifilm decided to not take on any placement students. After this, I was ready to give up applying for placements. A few weeks after this, another opportunity came up at Sterling Pharma Solutions however this was a company that specialised in analytical chemistry. I was sceptical about applying for this placement as analytical chemistry was my weakest subject and I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it, so I decided to bite the bullet and apply. I got asked to attend an interview and on the day I was told that I had been given the job!

During my placement year I learnt a tremendous amount which included using different analytical equipment such as high performance liquid chromatography,gas chromatography, infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, x-ray particle diffraction and much more. I learnt and developed many research skills, communication skills and my confidence increased academically and socially. I attended internal team meetings with other departments across the site and I attended customer meetings where I presented my analysis and findings to the customers and other team members. Whilst learning and understanding all the work I was doing, my analytical chemistry skills started to strengthen and my interest grew over the 14 months that I was on placement for.

Although placement years are very overwhelming at times, as you are going into the working industry and carrying out a lot of important work, it really helps in the aid of personal and professional development. I learnt so much about myself on my placement year and I would encourage all students to participate in a placement year if given the opportunity. There are so many options on what you can do, even where you do your placement. There are plenty of opportunities to go abroad for a placement year and even take part in a summer placement (normally around 3 or 4 months). Finally my advice to students is to grab every opportunity thrown at you,see every challenge as an opportunity for growth, work hard and most importantly enjoy it!

Student ambassador Moesha

Moesha Ezeala 
BSc (Hons) Medicinal Chemistry 

Topic: Course