Working as an Apprentice at AstraZeneca- Angela Chinoso Nwandu

What is my job role?

I am an Apprentice working in the Cell Culture and Fermentation Sciences (CCFS) team in AstraZeneca, located at Granta Park, Cambridge. I am currently in my 3rd year of this placement and I’m studying a level 5 degree Apprenticeship with the University of Kent in Applied Bioscience. So far, over the 3 years of my Apprenticeship, I’ve had rotational placements in each of the CCFS subteams, learning new skills and providing support for the development of new medicines.

The role of CCFS is to take candidate molecules isolated by the Research function and develop them further for evaluation in the clinic and onward manufacturing. This process involves applying knowledge and training in molecular biology, cell biology, cell culture and chemical engineering. I’ve been able to supply genetic material, support with process optimisation and development as well as work with large scale systems such as bioreactors. Alongside this I designate 20% of my time to learning about the science, completing course works and assignments.

Current projects

As I’m in the final year of this placement, I am required to carryout a project. Traditionally this would be an experiment in the laboratory. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions on traveling and living in London, we’ve had to come up with an alternative way to fulfil the requirements of the project that could be achieved without being in the laboratory.

Therefore the team identified a project that could be worked on remotely from home.  The chosen project focusses on data management and data integrity. Effective data management is important to CCFS and AZ and well defined systems need to be in place ensuring traceability, secure storage and  lifecycle management. In addition there are increasing regulatory expectations concerning good management of data and they expect companies to have appropriate policies in place.

I have just started this process and I’m looking forward to learning something new that’s outside my current are of knowledge, working with my colleagues, building new and different skills and gaining exposure to other areas of importance within AZ.

What are some advantages for working for a multinational pharmaceutical company?

There are many advantages.

There are so many areas and people you can learn from. Moving between departments, the focus of the work and techniques used can be different. Each team applies diverse methods, to tackle the challenges that are present. This variation has been really great for my learning. It has provided opportunities to build on problem solving and adaptability skills. In some cases, I’ve developed transferable skills that can be applied in different departments.

In addition, you can also meet different people at different stages of their career; from interns to technicians. This is effective in building strong, useful networks, which I truly appreciate especially now during this pandemic. These are people who are happy for you to call randomly to ask any questions. People you can have a virtual cake break with and people who are willing to take the time out, to support you in your learning and personal progress.

AZ has provided me with the room to explore, I have come to understand that there are many things you can do.

How has the apprenticeship been so far?

I have really enjoyed working at AZ and have appreciated their values, guidance and support. I have learnt to follow the science, to be attentive to the changes which take place within this industry. It has really been amazing to watch my colleagues put patients first, by meeting our targets despite the effects of the pandemic. I have had opportunities to be creative and even competitive, ensuring that the right things are in place for the organisation as a whole. These qualities has enabled me to develop in knowledge, experience, confidence and communication skills. The work accomplished in AZ contributes to making a difference in many individuals lives and I am happy I could be a part of it.

What would you tell someone if they were going to apply for an apprenticeship?

Go for it! There is so much to gain.