I originally enrolled in a health and science double-degree at the Swinburne University of Technology due to a lifelong fascination with the functioning of the brain and mind. Several members of my immediate and extended family had also suffered from neurological and mental illnesses and while studying abroad in Leicester, United Kingdom, I came across a competing idea of the undergirding aetiology of major depressive disorder which challenged the existing monoamine theory. It was also at this time that placement options began to emerge and a job at Pfizer (who produced drugs that my family have used) became available. I felt that this coincidence was too good of an opportunity to miss, so I applied and was successfully placed as a Process Validation Scientist at Pfizer.

Process validation is “the collection and evaluation of data, from the process design stage through commercial production, which establishes scientific evidence that a process is capable of consistently delivering a quality product”. For my role, I am an analyst for the internal quality control of Paclitaxel, a cytotoxic/chemotherapy drug which occurs naturally in the Pacific Yew bark. I have been trained in calibrating and using; pH meters, Karl Fischer Titration, High-Performance Liquid Chromatography, Microscopy, and particle counters. I have also analysed this data using statistical software such as Microsoft Excel and Minitab.

Joshua completed his placement at Pfizer.

The main highlight of this role is gaining laboratory experience. My skills have improved vastly thanks to the near-daily laboratory work whose hours far exceeded that of a typical undergraduate course. At university, I find the learning to be mostly theoretical, so we predominantly learn about the history, research, and undergirding mechanism in a passive and textbook-style manner. By contrast, I am in the laboratory almost daily at work and I have learned technical nuances and intuitive understandings of the machines and the underlying science with hands-on experience, which theory alone could not achieve.

While I certainly enjoyed working in the industry, my time at Pfizer has taught me that academia and research are my main career goals. Instead of working in a quality control environment, I would aspire to work in the research and development of pharmaceutical drugs that target psychiatric disorders.

  • "I aim to take my career global and seek the wisdom of cultures around the world to develop innovative drugs and new ideas about the brain and mind. I hope to research the underlying aetiology behind depression and Alzheimer’s disease and to use my expertise and firsthand experience to help others who suffer from debilitating illnesses."

    Joshua , Bachelor of Health Science

I am aiming to travel to Japan under the upcoming New Colombo Plan Scholarship in January 2020. It is here that I have an internship set up at Kyoto University’s Systems Neuroscience centre. I aim to take my learnings from Pfizer and research the undergirding aetiology behind Parkinson’s disease by studying the behaviour, histology, and electrophysiological recordings of non-human primates.

The placement experience is one of the most maturing experiences of my life. The industry will take you away from the safety at university and out of your comfort zone of pure, theoretical academia. It  will force you into the “deep end” where you need to rely on your own initiative and courage to drive your own learning. It is a rewarding experience that pushes you into adulthood. 

My time at Pfizer has only just begun my future career and team-building skills. I now have 12 months of experience at one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. I have met with leaders in pharmaceutical manufacturing, testing, and research and development and will use this experiece on my resume to stand out from 95% of graduates.

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