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Paula Ashling BSc Biochemistry, 2007

Paula Ashling's Photo

Paula can thank the Year of Science initiative for sparking her career in pharmaceutical research. Had she not had the opportunity to see just what it was like to work in the laboratories of a multi-national company, she might not have applied to the University of Southampton for a Biochemistry degree. She is now working at a pharmaceutical company using her scientific skills every day.

There was a tremendous choice of units so you could explore different areas. I took optional modules in pharmacology which stood me in good stead later.

'Science was always on the agenda,’ she explained. ‘As my Dad studied Chemistry at Cambridge, but I wanted to make my career in a slightly different field.’ The week-long placement at Astra Zeneca, arranged by her school, while she was working for A levels in Chemistry, Biology and Maths helped make up her mind. ‘I was intrigued by biochemistry after seeing what went on in the labs and talking to the people working there.’

The helpful staff at the Loughborough-based facility even helped her choose the right university. ‘They had a list of the best places to go to for Biochemistry and Southampton was one of them. I visited some universities before making up my mind which to apply for and was very impressed with Southampton. For starters, everything was very well organised on the open day. We even had a sample lecture to give us a taster of what we could expect later on.Paula is also enthusiastic about the flexible nature of the course. ‘There was a tremendous choice of units so you could explore different areas. I took optional modules in pharmacology which stood me in good stead later.’

Paula's four year course involved a year working in industry. After two years of study, she enjoyed the contrast of working for Pfizer in Kent. ‘It was decent work and reasonably well-paid, and it was good to put into practice a lot of what I’d learned over the last two years. I would really recommend students consider taking a course that involves some time in industry. It will give you something impressive for your CV and vital experience for later on.’

The third year saw Paula busy with her dissertation, investigating the effect of two drugs on a variety of worm. ‘I had tremendous support from my supervisor, Professor Lindy Holden-Dye. I chose her because she’d been an excellent lecturer and I knew she’d help me all she could. I must say the quality of all the University’s teaching and research staff was very high, perhaps because Biological Sciences is linked to a medical school.’

Paula graduated with a well deserved upper second class honours degree in 2007. “Her experience in industry and her highly competent laboratory project placed her head and shoulders above other graduates with the same class of degree,” said her tutor, Professor Lindy Holden-Dye. “That, combined with her motivation and enthusiasm, undoubtedly helped her secure her first job, working for Ferring on the University of Southampton Science Park. I anticipate it will be the start of a very successful career as a research scientist.”

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