We recently interviewed one of our contractors, James, to find out what it’s like to work as a Stability Analyst. We asked what a general day involves, what experience and qualification are required for this job and what advice James would give to an aspiring Stability Analyst.
Q1. What is your job title?
Q2. What does the company you work at do?
The company I work at researches, develops and manufactures innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products.
Q3. What is your background? (qualifications and work experience)
I have been working at this company for 14 months. Prior to this job I worked as a Quality Control Analyst for 2 years. Before that I worked as a Chemistry Technician in a University for 9.5 years, with most of the time based in an Analytical Chemistry Laboratory.
I have a BSc (Hons) degree in Chemistry and before that completed A-Levels and GCSE’s.
Q4. What does your job involve?
The main part of the job is testing liquid inhaler devices which are used to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma. The devices can be newly produced (release) or more commonly those that have been stored under different temperatures and humidity’s (stability) for certain durations of time (e.g. 3 months, 6 months, 12 months).
The purpose of the testing is to see whether the device performance and medicine (active ingredient) composition meets specification throughout the product life cycle. For example, the liquid within the inhaler might have to contain a certain percentage of medicine when the inhaler is released and maintain that throughout the next 3 years that it is stored under varying temperatures and humidity’s. The testing includes a number of chemical laboratory techniques and uses a range of specialised equipment.
Q5. What is a typical day like in your role?
The day begins with doing pre-analysis checks on the equipment that you are going to use to test the inhaler devices. This is to ensure that the various components that make up the equipment are working and delivering the required force and pressure to activate the inhalers, to enable analysis to be carried out.
This is followed by a daily 15-minute team meeting to review the previous day’s work for each person in the team. It identifies whether work scheduled was completed and whether the results of analytical testing passed (met specification). It also provides an opportunity to highlight any issues experienced while carrying out the work. The meeting also includes items such as Health and Safety performance for the overall Stability department, analyst training status, and the total number of batches of product that are currently being tested. People are encouraged to talk about successes from the previous day and highlight any concerns or issues.
Following the meeting, each analyst will begin their day’s analysis using the instructions given in a product specific method. There are various analytical techniques for each product which require different durations of time to complete. Some techniques will require most of the day to complete, whereas others only involve shorter testing times. In this case you will do different testing once your initial work is complete. There are also general reagents required for testing, that must be regularly produced to ensure there is a continuous supply available for other analysts and yourself to use for testing. These can be produced when your initial testing for the day is complete.
There are frequently training courses and meetings to attend during the day, so your testing is required to be completed around these. Every method of analysis and piece of equipment used in the laboratory has it’s own associated document containing instructions for correct usage. These are known as Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’S) and are stored electronically. A further part of a typical day is to check what SOP’s you have to read and ensure this is done before set deadlines. Once you have read them you sign them off electronically and they are removed from your list of SOP’s to read.
Around these daily aspects of the role are things like ensuring the laboratory and instrumentation are kept in a clean, tidy and safe manner.
Q6. How did you get into your current job role? (Did you need a certain qualification or experience?)
The job required previous experience of working in a similar role and specifically in a testing laboratory within the pharmaceutical Industry. One of the main requirements was knowledge of the standards and policies in place in the pharmaceutical industry to ensure high quality products which correctly treat medical conditions are available to patients. These are known as cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices).
I was required to have a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry or a related scientific subject, together with a background in Mathematics.
Q7. What do you enjoy most about your job?
I always wanted to work in a laboratory environment in industry and this job has given me the opportunity to do that. The pharmaceutical industry is important because it involves making medicines that improve the quality of people’s lives. The testing that we carry out contributes to this happening. It also involves using chemistry and mathematics which were my favourite subjects at school. I enjoy the strong emphasis on teamwork and enjoy working with the other people in my team.
Q8. What is the hardest part of your job?
In my previous role, everything was paper based. A worksheet would be completed by hand, weight slips printed off and attached to keep a record of work. In my current role everything is electronically based, so weights have to be transferred electronically to a software package that contains method information. Any reagents that are made for use in analytical testing also have to be created electronically. It is a very good system and learning how to use it has represented one of the biggest challenges for me as I have gotten used to the job.
Q9. Why did you decide to pursue this career?
I studied Chemistry at University, and it was my favourite subject at school. I always enjoyed working in a laboratory and the practical aspects of Chemistry when I was studying. Having spent a number of years in an academic environment I decided to pursue a career working in a laboratory in industry using the skills and experience that I had. The pharmaceutical industry was interesting to me as it creates products and medicines that improve people’s lives. I have always wanted to work for this company and this job provided an opportunity to do that.
Q10. What can this type of job lead on to?
There are opportunities to take on a more Senior Analyst role once you have completed training and gained experience in all the various methods of analysis that are used. This usually requires a few years’ experience in the role. There are also leadership and management training courses that can be attended if you would like to pursue this. There are also several different types of role other than laboratory work that you can move into if you prefer working with documents and IT. If you decide to go into Research and Development or return to academia to complete further education, then having experience working in an industrial laboratory environment will be beneficial when it comes to considering your application.
Q11. What advice would you give to somebody considering this role as a career?
If you enjoy Science, working in a laboratory and following methods to test products against performance specifications then I would recommend this role as a career. This is an excellent company to work for and they provide very good training and development opportunities to ensure that you can be successful in the role. There is a strong emphasis on teamwork, and it requires attention to detail and concentration so these are further skills you will develop. There is a mathematical element to the work so I would recommend the role to people who enjoy this subject also.
It is a good role for graduates, people who would like to gain experience of a role working in industry having spent time working in an academic environment, and for people who want to build on existing skills and experience gained in similar roles. I would recommend this company as a great company to work for, for the reasons already given – very good training and development opportunities. They offer a very good apprenticeship scheme which enables you to work and gain skills and experience while studying to gain qualifications.
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