Student Placement - Amgen

Heather White - Amgen

Educational background:

I am currently studying Computer Science at Brunel University and will be going into my final year of study at the end of my placement at Amgen. 

Why did you want to do a placement year? Specifically, why data science and pharmaceutical?

I have always had an interest in the application of computer science within the healthcare sector. Whilst studying, I felt a placement year would give me the opportunity to gain experience whilst exploring my interest in the area.


When applying to placement opportunities, I found that the only options that focused on computer science and health care where pharmaceutical placements. In addition to this, I felt that the research and innovation within the industry would help me gain an understanding on the drug development process and how computer scientists support this process.

What was your typical day like on placement: what tasks did you perform, who did you work with?

During my time at Amgen, I have learnt about the different stages of clinical trials. Amgen focuses on developing drugs for high unmet medical needs and within my placement I have seen how computer science can support this aim. 

My roles entailed providing a data platform and pipeline for data science activities. This meant that I was involved in creating software packages that aided data scientists. For example, I worked on the refactorization and testing of a software application for clinical studies. Its function was to assist scientists in their research in identifying significance of drugs early on in development.

Would you recommend a placement year, and do you have any tips for students thinking of doing one?

I would highly recommend doing a placement year. This year has given me the opportunity to develop a plethora of skills. Before working at Amgen, I had never programmed in R or developed automated tests, now I would say I am proficient in both. This experience has also strengthened my social and team working skills by allowing me to work with colleagues in different departments.

Even if you decide that you do not want to work in the area of your placement anymore, you still gain valuable insight as to what you do and do not want out of your career. Also, you will finish your degree with a year of experience in industry which is a valuable asset to your CV.

How has your placement experience shaped your future? What are your plans after completing your undergraduate degree?

This placement has aided in my module section for my final year at university. For example, I will be taking an artificial intelligence module because the lectures and projects within this module will provide me with the relevant skills I would need to pursue as career in research and design within the pharmaceutical industry.

The placement has shown me that I have made the right career choices so far and solidified my career aspirations of working within healthcare. I will be applying to several pharmaceutical graduate schemes within data science and the NHS informatics Student training program (STP).

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