Laura Oates – BSc (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science with Drug Development
Name: Laura Oates
School: Magh Ene College, Bundoran
Current Job: Quality Assurance Specialist
Company Name: Abbott
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to choosing Pharmaceutical Science with Drug Development?
From a young age I always had a keen interest in healthcare and helping individuals with serious conditions live better lives. Especially after watching a few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy! Knowing this, I thought becoming a doctor was the obvious career path to pursue. However, inability to ‘stomach’ blood and intestines put that idea to a standstill. So, I asked myself, “how can I still help people live better lives without the blood and gore?”. Pharmaceutical Science with Drug Development, a degree offered by ATU Sligo, provided the answer. Being from Sligo, paired with my love of science and ATU Sligo’s excellent scientific department, it was a no-brainer for me to choose ATU Sligo.
What specifically about the degree did you particularly enjoy?
There are several aspects of the course I enjoyed. The fact that the degree did not throw you into the deep end regarding theory is one that stands out the most. The degree is designed to build upon your knowledge from first year where you study the basics of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics and then progress to more challenging modules such as Advanced Organic Chemistry and Biopharmaceuticals. The degree is also structured so that theory and lab work are split 50:50, allowing students to apply what they learnt in lectures in a real lab setting. The 50:50 balance ensures that learning about science is both comprehensive and engaging. Of course, the lecturers also enhance the overall value of the programme by providing ongoing guidance and support.
What is the best thing about your degree that you think new applicants should know?
The best part about the degree is the workplace opportunity provided in Year 3 where students have the chance to work in a pharmaceutical company such as Abbott or Abbvie and learn about the processes involved in producing a pharmaceutical product. Thankfully, with the help of ATU Sligo, I was offered the opportunity to complete a 15-month internship with Abbott Diagnostics Division in Finisklin in Sligo during the second semester of Year 3. During the internship, I worked in the Quality Systems and Quality Assurance department and was exposed to a range of quality activities including record retention, Failure Modes and Effects (FMEA) management, quality approvals of incoming commodities and chemicals, scheduling of document approvals, and I even got to lead a global project where I collaborated with other Abbott sites in Wiesbaden, Longford, and Lake County. After the internship, I was offered the opportunity to continue working with ADD Sligo in the Quality Assurance department while completing my final year of my degree. Despite it being quite a juggling act, I would strongly advise seizing any opportunity for ‘real world’ experience with both hands!
What were your favourite modules on the degree?
One of my favourite modules was Drug Structure in Year 4. In this module, we got to learn about how a lead drug compound is discovered, how it is tested for biological activity, and how it is structurally altered to optimize its biological effect and minimise side effects. It is amazing to see how a breakthrough drug is discovered and how little alterations can have such a big impact on whether or not a treatment is effective or even toxic in humans. I also really enjoyed the module Biopharmaceuticals where we studied immunoassays and bioassays used in diagnostics as well as the many treatments for diseases and viral infections. For example, the enzymes used to treat cystic fibrosis, lymphocytic leukaemia and pulmonary embolisms.
If you were speaking with a first year student, what advice would you give them?
Go to lectures!! I know a 9am lecture seems daunting, especially after a night out However, one missed lecture quickly becomes two, then three, and then things become a little overwhelming. Of course, missing a lecture now and again is understandable; I’ve done it myself! However, make every effort to be self-aware and maintain high attendance. For me, attending lectures in this course is invaluable as lecturers will often provide additional information that can really cement your understanding of a certain aspect of the module.
What long term goals are you aiming for?
I now work as a Quality Assurance Specialist with Abbott and I am thoroughly enjoying it. With the help of Abbott, I want to achieve my long-term goal of leading a new product launch of a drug that has a significant impact in allowing individuals with serious ailments live better lives. Naturally, another activity that I am looking forward to is traveling the world and experiencing different cultures.
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