I look at disease trends, identifying individuals who are at risk and analyse the impact of interventions such as drug and vaccination programmes.
I think epidemiology is quite unique in that it covers most stages of R&D from the beginning – genetic epidemiology identifies potential new targets for drugs – to phase IV clinical trials looking at safety in medicines that have already been launched.
When I get in I check my emails. I do a lot of work with the States and because of the time difference we mostly communicate via email.
At the moment I’m on a couple of project teams for clinical trials so I keep a check on their development. I often have to write protocols for in house studies so I have to get things reviewed and write analysis plans for data analysis. But it does vary every day, which is what attracted me to the job.
Because I liaise with people in other countries I do get to travel occasionally, I’ve only been here eight months and I’ve already been to several places.
I’ve only been working in the industry for eight months, before that I was working for the government in the Health Protection Agency (HPA) for eight years. A lot of my work there focused on epidemiology and I really enjoyed that aspect to my role. So I decided to move into the pharmaceutical industry so that I could focus more on epidemiology. I also wanted something that was faster paced and more challenging.
I studied A-levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths, which I think is a good grounding for epidemiology as I’d say it’s 50:50 stats and biology. At that point I hadn’t even heard of epidemiology but biochemistry seemed to cover most of the things I was interested in, so I studied for a degree in medical biochemistry, which has absolutely nothing to do with epidemiology but it gave me a good background of disease and disease mechanisms at a molecular level.
While I was doing my degree I decided I preferred the analytical and theoretical side to science rather than the lab side of things.
While I was working at the HPA I studied for a Masters in epidemiology.
I did a straight 3 year degree course, looking back I probably would have benefited from doing a years industrial placement. A PhD will allow you to enter the industry at a higher level and allow you to progress further.
Everyone is really approachable and lovely, everyone is willing to help. I’m a pretty sociable person, I like going out for a drink, to bars, to the theatre and shopping.
My next step will probably be doing a PhD while I’m working to get a more senior role and have more responsibility.
Communication is really important in this job; you need to communicate with people at all different levels about all different topics. You need to be confident as you need to be able to present information. You need to be good at generating new ideas.
Try to get pharmaceutical or relevant experience. It’s a mixture of science and maths so be sure that you are interested in those areas.
My first experience of the pharmaceutical industry was as a 12-week summer placement at Pfizer in their early formulation department.