From graduation to success in Quality Assurance: here’s how

We’re really pleased to share this blog post which features three recent University of Edinburgh alumnae. They provide some fantastic insights into the varied non-laboratory role of Quality Assurance (QA) and highlight their positive experience of transitioning from graduate to employee during Covid-19.

Many thanks to Nicola Reid for this blog post, with contributions from Robyn Campbell and Gabrielle Delfour.

My career journey

I have always been interested in medicines and how pharmaceutical intervention impacts the lives of billions around the globe. I knew from an early age that I wanted to contribute to the development of new drugs, therefore pursuing a degree in Pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh was a natural choice for me.

During my time at Edinburgh Uni, I developed a comprehensive understanding of the ‘science’ of life sciences, but left feeling curious about what else happens during drug and chemical development. I accepted a year-long Master’s degree in Regulatory Affairs and Toxicology at University College Dublin to learn more about the global regulatory landscapes and the modern toxicological techniques that are key to pharmaceutical development. Thankfully, my graduate studies also took the pressure off finding a job for another year!

Why work in QA?

I started my career at Charles River Edinburgh in September 2020 as an ‘Associate QA Auditor’ in the toxicology team. I was drawn to Charles River as they supported the development of more than 80% of drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the last three years, and was also drawn to the role of QA auditor as it is a non-laboratory-based role for scientists that is at the forefront of scientific research.

I hadn’t heard of QA before I applied for my position at Charles River, and was pleased to find a role which allows me to use my Chemistry degree and contribute to scientific research but doesn’t involve benchwork.” Gabrielle Delfour, BSc Chemistry with Materials

Working in QA presented the perfect opportunity for me to use my degree in a non-laboratory based setting”. Robyn Campbell, BSc Pharmacology

The QA team at Charles River Edinburgh work hard to assure that research being conducted at our facility complies with Good Laboratory Practice (GLP). For pharmaceuticals to be used in clinical trials, and eventually be granted marketing authorisation, a variety of preclinical toxicology studies must be conducted in accordance with GLP principles to ensure and promote safety, consistency, high quality, and reliability of chemicals.

What does the role of QA involve?

My role as a QA auditor is:

  • Auditing data produced in studies to assure GLP compliance. As a result, the job is varied and means that no two days look the same.
  • Reviewing study plans to ensure studies are planned appropriately, auditing scientific reports to assure that our reports fully and accurately describe the data obtained in our study.
  • Providing quality and compliance advice to our scientific teams and management.

Working in QA allows you to be involved in the whole study instead of focusing on one aspect. I work with protocols written before the study commences, the data collected across the study and the results in the final report.” Robyn Campbell, BSc Pharmacology

I can go from auditing a piece of supporting analytical work from the Chemistry department, to the live phase of a crop study conducted in mainland Europe, to a whole study investigating the metabolic pathway of a new pharmaceutical chemical.” Gabrielle Delfour, BSc Chemistry with Materials

From university graduate to full-time employee during Covid-19…

Despite starting my role during the Covid-19 pandemic, the transition from full-time student to full-time employee has been surprisingly smooth. Most of the work that I do can be done remotely and from the comfort of my own living room! All my team members have made a great effort to help settle me into my new role. My biggest concern starting my new position straight out of University was that I wouldn’t know what I was doing, however, all new members of the QA department receive several months of comprehensive training.

Even working from home, the support and training from my colleagues has been incredible and it’s an exciting opportunity being involved in live studies from day one.” Robyn Campbell, BSc Pharmacology

Although I am now finished and signed off on my initial training, my colleagues are always easy to contact whenever I have any questions. Our department is made up of many people with different academic and industry backgrounds, so there is always somebody to ask for help!

My advice to students and recent graduates

Deciding what you want to do once you have finished your degree is challenging, but it’s completely normal and okay not to know what to do!

What I found most useful when looking for jobs was:

  • Connecting with other recent graduates from my course on LinkedIn and looking at what they are doing.
  • I found out about many roles I didn’t even know I could do!
  • It’s beneficial to make these connections and talk to people about what they are doing to see if it’s a role you could see yourself in.
  • Many vacancies aren’t published online, and by building connections with people in industry you may find there are many roles available that you are perfectly suited for!

If you have any questions about non-laboratory roles for scientists, please do not hesitate to get in contact with Gabrielle, Robyn or myself via LinkedIn, and if you are interested in joining our team at Charles River Edinburgh, please have a look at our vacancies online.

Excellent advice. You can explore further on how “Social media and career development are a match” on the Careers Service website.

*Save the Date* Representatives from Charles River are attending our Graduate Jobs Fair Online on Wednesday, 2nd June 2021.




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