Case study

Senior scientist — Stamatis Korkis

Stamatis describes what it’s like to be a medicinal chemist and how he hopes to improve the lives of patients

What did you study?

I studied for a PhD in chemistry at the University of Nottingham and graduated in 2018. Before that I graduated from an MChem in chemistry from Loughborough University in 2014.  

How did you get your job?

After completing my PhD, I did a postdoc in Germany at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. I then decided to apply for medicinal chemistry jobs in the UK. I applied on the employer's website and after an on-site interview I was offered the job.

What's a typical working day like?

During my time as a medicinal chemist, I have worked on various projects in the area of oncology, immunology and the central nervous system. The projects span from the very early stage of drug discovery all the way through to the clinical trials.

More specifically, I am involved in leading projects, making sure deadlines are met and key milestones are achieved. A portion of my time is spent in the office analysing data and thinking of ideas that address the key challenges of the project. I also spend time in the laboratory synthesising molecules and making those ideas a reality. Meetings with clients, colleagues and collaborators also take up a considerable amount of my time.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the creative part of the job the most. Designing molecules that have never been made before which can hopefully help improve patient's lives in the long run.

What are the challenges?

Time is quite an important factor. Having time to think about what's next or what's the best way forward. You can only do so many things in one day. It's important to prioritise things and try to be aware of the bigger picture.

In what way is your degree relevant?

I am a medicinal chemist and the foundation for any good medicinal chemist is a good background in organic synthesis. My degree enabled me to learn and develop my synthetic skills which are necessary for a job in this field.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

As a medicinal chemist you generally start out in a more lab-based role, synthesising compounds. As you learn more about medicinal chemistry you have the opportunity to become more involved in the design aspect of the job. Then with more experience you can move into a more managerial role if that’s something you want to do.

My goal is to lead medicinal chemistry projects and help improve the lives of patients through this. I am also interested in developing people and helping them succeed in their career.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

My Masters was integrated as part of my undergraduate studies. For a Masters you generally specialise in an area of research so I would pick an area that I am passionate about and try to keep in mind the prospective jobs or PhDs that require such a Masters.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • For an interview, brush up on organic chemistry mechanisms and retrosynthesis. Plus any medicinal chemistry knowledge is a bonus.
  • It's always useful to have good connections so try to meet new people as much as possible.
  • A PhD is generally preferred if you want to progress faster but it's not essential. It can vary from company to company.
  • If you're doing something you enjoy, be persistent and continue to follow your dream despite the many obstacles that you’ll come across. Don't be afraid to take a risk if it's something you believe in.
  • Never doubt yourself. If I can do it, so can you.

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