Careers and Academic Liaison

Chair: Nick Wells

The objectives of the Careers and Academic Liaison Committee (CALC) are to promote careers for statisticians and programmers within the pharmaceutical industry, through school and university activities and establishing links with relevant professional groups. By working directly with schools and universities, and via our external Careers website, we provide information to individuals interested in careers as either statisticians or statistical programmers within the industry.  Our activities include: 
  • Developing and running interactive workshops for schools
  • Giving careers talks at universities
  • Attending and organising regional and national careers events
  • Raising awareness of general issues such as cuts to MSc funding and changes to A level mathematics and statistics curriculum
  • Working with other organisations such as the Royal Statistical Society (RSS)

We are always on the lookout for people to help with our initiatives, for example running a workshop in a school, giving a university careers talk or writing a profile about working in the industry. If you are interested in becoming involved in any of our activities and can spare even just a little bit of time, please get in touch with any of the committee.

If you have any careers related questions please feel free to contact us at


The committee meet bi-monthly to discuss current topics and agenda items.  


Name Company  Role
Vicky Marriott
Helen Broadhurst Astra Zeneca MSc Careers Event 2014
Amanda Darekar Pfizer Careers Talks
Jen Green Roche MSc Careers Event 2014; Banners
Gail Lynn PPD MSc Careers Event 2014
Steve Mallett GSK Website; National Big Bang 2014
Anna Robertson Quanticate Social Media; University Prizes; Local Big Bang
Committee Resources

Committee resources can be found here.

Public Resources

CALC maintains a Careers Centre website, which contains information and resources for use by schools, universities and individual students.

Recent Activity

PSI Careers Event 2014

On the 19th February 2014, CALC ran the fourth annual PSI careers event. Fifteen different companies and organisations descended on the University of Sheffield, along with approximately 90 BSc, MSc and PhD students from across the country for a half-day event which consisted of a mix of presentations, newly created workshops, and time for the students to talk to the different companies.
The companies included a mix of pharmaceutical companies and CROs (Adelphi Values, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly, GSK, PAREXEL, Phastar, PhUSE, PPD, PRA, PSI, Quanticate, Roche, and Veramed). The representatives talked to students about the industry: the opportunities open to them, and their personal experiences of work in the industry to date. In addition, representatives from five universities (Lancaster, Leicester, LSHTM, Reading, and Sheffield) joined to advertise the various course options open to students should they be interested in further study.

The presentation topics for the day included an introduction to the pharmaceutical industry, a discussion of the differences between a statistician and a statistical programmer, the current trends and future challenges seen in the industry, and the role of outcomes research in the industry. In addition, we had a presentation from a new starter in the industry to give the students a real feel for what they could be doing in the next year or so. We also had a session called ‘Statisticians on the spot’: five volunteers were literally put on the spot and asked some fairly difficult questions! This ‘Mock the week’ style session was much more informal and hopefully showed statisticians in a different light.

Feedback received shows that both the companies and the students found the day extremely useful, and that this was our most popular event yet. The students particularly enjoyed hearing experiences in the ‘Statisticians on the spot’ session, and speaking to the company representatives. Many students would have liked even longer time to speak to the companies, which we plan to address for next year’s event.

PSI CALC hopes to repeat the success of the event again next year. The location and timing of the event is currently under discussion, so watch this space for more details later in the year! 

National Big Bang 2014

The Annual Big Bang Fair ran from the 13th to the 16th March this year, and consumed two of the massive halls at the Birmingham NEC. The game: A randomised controlled headache medicine trial using rhubarb and custards and about a million packets of dice. The result: stolen sharpies, many empty cans of red bull, sweet wrappers and one narrow escape from losing a finger in the randomisation machine.

The fair was filled with exciting stalls showing some of the exciting career possibilities for children studying the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and was aimed at those between about 7 and 19, though the age range that attended was inevitably wider (my youngest ‘patient’ was four!). Despite a comparatively simple stand (we were situated between Create-your-own-snot, a video game group and Warwick University physics department who were equipping children with car parking sensors on a fly costume) we had a lot of traffic.

‘Patients’ began by filling out a paper CRF with their demographic information and then rolled four dice to determine their baseline headache score. After that we used a machine which popped out a random coloured ball (sometimes – though it was quite temperamental!) to determine their treatment group and we gave them a bag corresponding to their treatment group containing either three or four dice for them to roll for their post-treatment score. It also contained a sweet, which represented their medicine. We then asked them if they had experienced any side effects, which provided answers between ‘dizziness’ and ‘my leg fell off’, and then asked them to copy the information onto an eCRF form generated using Visual Basic. This information was then added to the dataset, updating the plots to show some simple summary statistics – including the change from baseline boxplots, and responder status split by gender and age. (To make sure the statistics were still meaningful for the children who came at the very beginning, the dataset had about twenty fake entries at the start of the day.)

We also found most children’s statistical knowledge extended just as far as the mean, which meant there was a lot of simplification needed from the explanation I had planned. It was surprising to me that more children seemed to have heard of the placebo effect than knew what a boxplot was, though many described it as ‘lying about what’s in a tablet’ which prompted a lot of hasty explanations.

We heard from a neighbouring stall that on the first day there were 23,000 children attending the event, more when their teachers and/or parents were included. It was non-stop! Luckily the Friday was a bit calmer, and by Sunday it was even fairly quiet in places, however the change in ratio to parents rather than teachers added a very different dynamic to the weekend. They were very often keen to add in anecdotes, and ask questions for their own knowledge rather than their children’s. Though many of the children were there purely for the sugar, enticed by the promise of goodie bags, there were some with a true interest as young as 12. I for one had no clue that I might end up where I am now until about two years ago, so it was really impressive to see those who had done their research.

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