I work for a large phamaceutical company where we make a range of different compounds such as Lipitor, which is an anti-cholesterol compound and Viagra, which is probably the most famous compound we make.

What do you do in your job

I work for chemical research and development and we’re responsible for making drug substance supplies, that’s the active ingredient in medicines and we make that to fund clinical studies and ultimately to transfer it to manufacturing to fund the marketplace.

My role is to lead a project team, to work very closely with analysts and formulators and chemists, and to really make sure that all aspects of delivering the material and delivering the root are looked after and commentated.

Coloured pills and capsules

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We get round-bottomed flasks and we fill them with white solids and different reagents and we warm them up and we cool them down and then we analyse to see what we’ve got and then we try and isolate compounds.

For me, it’s a little bit like cooking, you just add ingredients and then you heat it up and then hopefully you get the right product out at the end. It’s like cooking sometimes what you get at the end is exactly what you want and other times it’s a complete mess and you have to start again.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I really enjoy working with a whole range of different people. My job changes every day. Sometimes I’m talking to analysts, sometimes I’m talking to formulators and sometimes I’m talking to clinicians.

The company is huge. On this site I think there are about between five and six thousand people. So, that gives you the magnitude of the different types of people you can interact with every day. A whole range of backgrounds, skillsets, the diversity here is just enormous.

How did you get into your job?

I left school and went off to university and I studied environmental chemistry for four years in Edinburgh. After that I wanted to pursue the chemistry part, the organic synthesis piece, so I went off to Nottingham and did a PhD there for three years and from there I went to this pharmaceutical company.

What advice would you give for people wishing to enter your career area?

If you’ve got a chemistry teacher talk to them about the different roles and opportunities there might be. Look into opportunities to study further, university courses, a large pharmaceutical company or a small company near you that does chemistry. Try and talk to them, find out about the different roles that are involved and see how it goes.

First published 2008