Laura Doherty, a student at West Kirby Grammar School in Merseyside, spent her summer working at Bristol Myers Squibb looking at different methods for testing the solubility of tablets. She recently exhibited her work at the Big Bang Fair in London, and is now hoping to study Chemistry at university.
How did you get involved in the Nuffield Research Placements Programme and why did you want to take part in the programme?
I researched the programme and found that I was interested, so when my school offered me the opportunity to apply I took it eagerly. I was interested in a career in pharmaceuticals and relished the opportunity to do a project in this environment. I thought it would be enjoyable as well as a valuable insight into the working life of a research scientist - an experience unrivalled by any other type of work experience I could do at the time.
What were the aims of your project, and how did you go about achieving these?
I worked for six weeks at Bristol-Myers Squibb, investigating several different methods of making up solutions called 'biorelevant media'. These solutions give a good indication of how well a tablet will dissolve in the body, an important part of the development process. The different methods vary in ease, potential for hazard and cost. My project was to find out which of these methods of making up the media would be the best for Bristol-Myers Squibb to use in the future. I made up several batches of the media and performed dissolutions (dissolving a tablet in the medium) on each to determine which was best. I still had a little time at the end of my project, though, in which I found out the "shelf life" of the media which I suggested to Bristol-Myers Squibb. They are, in fact, still using those media now.
What did you learn most from your placement experience?
I learned what it was like to work in a laboratory environment. It was an incredibly rewarding experience - definitely worth giving up my summer for. I enjoyed every second. The most important lesson I learned from the experience, though, was just how much I enjoyed doing my work there. Everyone was really friendly and I settled in well. The project taught me that I have made the right choice as to what I would like to do as a career. I have no regrets about choosing to do a placement whatsoever.
What are your longer term plans and how did your placement experience affect these plans?
I have applied for university to study chemistry, and I hope to have a career in medicinal chemistry (discovering new medicines). The experience was completely different from doing experiments in a school lab. I was more independent and got to use equipment which I had never seen before, which I think will stand me in good stead for adapting to doing practicals at university. Apart from gaining new skills, I think that the placement experience has affirmed my decision to study chemistry further and has made me more motivated to achieve my goals.
What was it like exhibiting at the Big Bang?
It was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone who has done a placement and wishes to take it further. I met many new friends and was given the opportunity to present my passion for science to my peers and to judges who themselves were in the scientific community. So many people were successful and I saw so many projects which were the work of brilliant minds. It was breathtaking to see the ideas that people of my age had. I felt inspired and I would love to go again - if only I had another project! Putting my project forward for the competition was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made.