Student Placement - AstraZeneca

Beth Buckenham - AstraZeneca

I am Mathematics student at Cardiff University. Currently I have completed the first two years of my degree and this year I have been out on a statistics placement at AstraZeneca in the Early Oncology Statistics group. 

Having spent much of my teenage life knowing I wanted to pursue maths but unsure on what career I wanted to have, I was keen to see what a maths degree could open doors to. When it came to applying for placements all I knew was that I wanted to do something that I felt would be helping others and a job that I would find fulfilling. Some research helped me identify medical statistics in the pharmaceutical industry as ticking both of these boxes.


My time at AstraZeneca has presented me with a wealth of opportunities such that no day looks the same. As a learner that loves a fast paced environment, this aligned well with what I wanted to gain from my placement and for my personal development. I have been fortunate to work with teams on various studies that are all in different stages of development. Some of the work I have been involved with has included benchmarking for a new module to be added to an existing study, a study that has been put on hold for safety concerns, and a study that is closing. I have also had the opportunity to engage with some simulation work to support research into emerging industry trends. Throughout the tasks involved in these studies I have had varying levels of independence depending on my experience with similar tasks and confidence as I have developed throughout the year. 

Working in this industry comes with a lot of cross-functional team work, this has meant that my communication skills have developed massively. I have also had the chance to present work, which is a skill that I haven’t had many opportunities to develop before now. 

My placement year has also developed my technical skills. Before this year the only coding language that I had been exposed to was Python, I can now confidently use R for data manipulation and plotting various visualisations and, I have been fortunate to receive formal SAS training that was intended for graduates. Before my placement year my knowledge of survival statistics was minimal, now I have a good understanding of this topic and use it frequently throughout my role.

I would absolutely recommend a placement year. It is a fantastic opportunity to see how the modules you study in your degree can be applied to the real world, all while giving you the chance to develop a variety of soft and technical skills. Throughout my placement year I have always felt well supported and part of the team. I have been fortunate to have met some great friends on placement and work with some incredibly talented and friendly individuals who were always happy to help with anything I may have needed. 

If you are considering submitting an application for a placement but don’t feel as though you tick all of the boxes, submit the application and show a keenness to learn the skills you don’t feel as though you have. There were certainly many skills that I didn’t have before, that I have now because of my placement!

My time at AstraZeneca has given me a new found love for statistics and I have a much clearer direction of where I am headed for after my degree compared to this time last year.
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to extend a thanks to those at AZ who have made my placement not only possible but also an exciting and enriching experience.

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