Student Placement - GSK

Sally Cockayne - GSK

I’m Sally Cockayne and I study a Mathematics BSc at the University of Reading. I really enjoy logical thinking and problem solving but also miss my interest in Biology from A-level, so I always knew I wanted to complete a placement within the pharmaceutical industry. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) appealed to me as a company because of the values they hold and the opportunity to apply my mathematical knowledge to scientific projects that have a positive impact on people’s lives.


After a successful application process, I began my role in the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Control (CMC) Statistics department focussed on drug development to treat respiratory conditions and HIV. Having the experience to apply concepts to real-life data and work in an office environment with highly skilled statisticians has hugely developed my confidence and helped steer my career path.

The main role of a CMC Statistician at GSK is to consult and provide statistical expertise to scientists and engineers. There is a key focus on statistical testing, exploratory data analysis and design of experiment to ensure all batches of medicines are safe and efficacious for patient use. Before I could begin writing code for projects, I had to revise some of my statistical modules and learn the main programming language used as the statistical analysis software (SAS), which I had some previous exposure to at University.

CMC Statisticians consult with many departments and work on a range of different projects. This year I have worked on over 20 different projects using various statistical techniques and software. Some of my favourite projects to work on have been:

  • An external manufacturer discontinued a piece of equipment, I had to create a table of tests to check the replacement was equivalent.
  • Establishing alert and action limits from count data of bacterial colonies collected from surface and air swabs taken in a Grade D environment.
  • Validating and analysing the measurement-to-measurement variability between single dose safety syringe devices and assessing results against specifications and action limits on variability plots.
  • Assessing the sensitivity of the probability of passing a Pharmacopeia assay if the specification were to change. 

There was an endless amount to get involved in at GSK which assisted to develop my confidence, networking and communication skills. To name a few, I was a volunteer on the Ware communications team to help author the weekly newsletter distributed to 1500 employees. I completed my Industrial Cadets Platinum Leaders Award and have volunteered at numerous charity events to help raise money mainly for the GSK Ware charity ‘SENSE’. I became a STEM Ambassador for GSK which led to numerous opportunities, a highlight was working at science shows that hosted 650 primary school children!

My year has been incredible and I have achieved and developed so much in the space of 12 months with great help and support from my work colleagues and fellow placement students. I’ve learnt skills I could not have gained from my degree alone and I think the experiences and confidence I have developed will be invaluable in the future. I couldn’t recommend it enough!

Upcoming Events

Latest Jobs