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Interview with Dr Natalie Cureton (AstraZeneca)

Following her PhD in targeted nanoparticle drug delivery to treat pregnancy complications such as fetal growth restriction at the University of Manchester, Dr Natalie Cureton secured a job with the multinational Biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. She kindly agreed to participate in a virtual interview with us to share her journey – and here is what she said!

1. What is your current role at AstraZeneca?

I am currently a Scientist working in the Oncology Innovative Medicines division of AstraZeneca, based at Alderley Park.

2. What helped you decide between industry versus academia during your job search?

When looking for jobs I considered both jobs in industry and in academia. I decided to take a job in industry as I wanted to see how research and development of new medicines takes place in a big company. AstraZeneca has a great track record of following the science to deliver new medicines to market so it really stood out.

3. How does research in industry differ from academic research?

I have only been working at AstraZeneca for a few weeks but I can already see the difference. In industry, although as a research scientist I will be assigned to a specific project that I work on and have input in, I do not have responsibility for every aspect of that project. This is very different to my PhD where I was responsible for all aspects of my project. Working on a smaller part of a larger project that is high priority within the company does mean that I am able to conduct research that will advance the project at a fast pace, something that is very exciting.

4. How did your PhD prepare you for this role?

The skills I acquired during my PhD made me an ideal candidate for my current role. The position I currently hold at AstraZeneca draws on many aspects of the training I received during the 4 years of my PhD, so I feel very well prepared for this new role. I have actually moved into a completely new research field – my PhD was based on pregnancy complications and placenta, while my current role if based in oncology. The overall scientific expertise and skills that I gained during my PhD is what set me apart and as such is what secured me my current job.

5. Did you do any additional work experience/extracurricular activities that employers saw as relevant experience?

I tried to involve myself in a variety of extracurricular activities and really took advantage of everything that I could be involved with at Manchester. I helped to organise public engagement activities with my research department and this is something that really stood out to the interviewer as he said it demonstrated that I was able to communicate my research to a lay audience.

6. What do you hope to be doing in 5yrs?

AstraZeneca is currently in the process of building a new HQ in Cambridge and so I expect to move to this new facility in the next 5 years. AstraZeneca also offer every employee a personal development plan to help get to the next stage in your career. My aim in the next 5 years is to advance to a project lead or principal scientist of a specific area in Oncology Innovative Medicines.

7. What tips would you offer PhD students hoping to work in industry?

Try to acquire as many diverse skills as possible. Go and look at what job advertisements are looking for now and then tailor the training during your PhD to put you in the strongest position possible. Finally, don’t be put off if a job in industry is not in your exact field – your PhD will give you a sound scientific base on which you can build!

To hear more stories likes this, come along to our PhD Careers Event on Wednesday 22nd March, click HERE for more info.

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