UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Lewis Moffat's Summer Project with GlaxoSmithKline

20 October 2016

Lewis Moffat graduated this summer with a BEng in Biochemical Engineering. He spent the summer as a project student at GSK’s Biopharmaceuticals R&D division in Stevenage. The project was funded by a Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Analytical Chemistry Summer Studentship. Here he shares some of his experience.

Tell us a bit about you

To preface, I’m a bit of a nomad. I’ve lived across the world as a kid; primarily in North and South America. When I finished high school in California I was determined to come to the UK for several reasons but it generally boiled down to having many family and friends here. So generally the decision to come to London to study wasn’t exceptionally alien.

I decided to come to London and UCL due to having been to a UCL open day and really liking it. The degree choice was also quite simple as I found I really liked the opportunities the course offered. Ranging across the spectrum of what is under the umbrella of biology and engineering, be it stem cells or brewing.

How did you hear about the opportunity to apply for a RSC Analytical Chemistry Summer Studentship?

I heard about the opportunity through email. During my second year I noticed that the department was offering a bunch of different cool opportunities. Most of which were through a service called PRiSM. Further from that a lot of the work in coordinating was being done by Iris who also came to several of our lectures and generally put the word out.

Why did you decide to apply for the RSC stipend with GSK?

Not only did it work well with what I had planned for summer but it generally seemed like a brilliant opportunity to get some experience in industry and apply some of what I had learned at university. Due to the opportunity being facilitated through the department to some extent it also meant I had some touchstones going into the internship. The stipend in particular was very helpful as it enabled me to maintain my living circumstances over the summer while working.

Tell us a bit about your project and working at GSK.

Working at GSK was a wonderful experience for many reasons but primarily because of my co-workers. They created an incredibly comfortable environment to not only work but to learn. Overall I can’t think of any way to knock the internship; it was great, and I’m not just blowing smoke.

I was part of the Analytical group in the Biopharmaceuticals R&D division at GSK Stevenage. Although I got to work with and help my coworkers I did have a personal project. I was working to find the optimal conditions for analyzing a really promising therapeutic bio-molecule. I was part of the Separation Sciences and Stability Team so a lot of my work focused on optimizing conditions (analytical method development) to monitor molecular stability. It was a great project as I got to do wet and dry work, and got to present my results to the group near the end of my time with GSK.

How did your degree prepare you for your current course?

I am currently studying a graduate degree in Machine Learning with the aim of taking my background from Biochemical Engineering and moving towards becoming a computational biologist. What I have found is that my degree has a really great foundation of different skills, all of which can be applied in different areas and realms.

What advice would you give current students?

My main piece of advice would be take as many opportunities as you can. Be it getting elected for a society committee position or an internship. Nothing will look like the ‘perfect work placement’ but by just taking as many opportunities as present themselves you will benefit greatly. Following from this, get to know the professors in the department and what they are working on. They are all very approachable and willing to help. In terms of the degree, find the right balance of work/play in the first two years, but in third year really buckle down and work otherwise it’s easy to get overwhelmed.