Case study

Associate research scientist — Zakia Zia

After graduating with a degree in Pharmaceutical Science with Professional Experience from the University of Salford, Zakia now works as an associate research scientist

How did you get your job?

As part of my studies at the University of Salford, I took a year out to gain professional experience at Kidscan Research Organisation. My placement was a rewarding experience - I was involved in synthesising compounds and evaluating their biological activities through microbiology testing and cell culture, as well as writing a placement report and highlighting my findings to lecturers and peers.

Working at Kidscan helped me decide what to study for my dissertation. I investigated the roles of autophagy and endoplasmic reticulum stress in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. At this stage, I gained lots of experience working with cell culture and utilised my aseptic techniques.

After finishing my exams, I went on to search for jobs related to what I'd studied during my degree. I came across the associate research scientist position, applied immediately and went for an interview, which I successfully passed.

What's a typical day like as an associate research scientist?

My role involves screening client compound using high and low throughput in vitro toxicity assays, maintaining cell culture lines, assay development and validation within safety regulations, processing data and reporting results and monitoring as well as maintaining laboratory consumables.

What do you enjoy about your job?

We have different assays that are carried out upon the clients' preference. There's several types of high content screening equipment which are used to showcase fluorescence imaging which can be used to analyse multi-parametric indicators of cytotoxicity. It's very exciting work.

I also enjoy working in a fast-paced environment with warm, welcoming colleagues, and researching, reading journals and shadowing senior scientists to pick up new techniques.

What are the challenges?

This is the start of my scientific career, so getting to terms with certain assays has been challenging. However, I use my initiative to overcome any challenges, and can always ask for assistance from other members of my team.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree gave me the opportunity to make a positive contribution to the field, sharpened my focus towards my academic and practical work and allowed me to develop transferable skills which I utilise in my present role.

In my placement and final year I gained a lot of experience working with cell culture, treating novel compounds and existing drugs to determine cell viability, see the toxicities and measure the cell health profile.

How has your role developed? What are your career ambitions?

Although I have been only training for just over 2 months, I can say that my role has already developed in a sense that I have learnt to independently set up tasks and experiments.

I have lots to learn but I'm excited to continue growing in the role. In the future I see myself in a senior position, taking on more responsibility and finding solutions to improving quality of life in patients.

How can I become an associate research scientist?

  • Stay patient with your work. Studying for a degree is always stressful, but if you don't doubt yourself you'll reap success.
  • Actively seek out work experience as this will benefit you in the future.

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