picture of charlie

Charlie Stevenson

Charlie graduated from the University in Leeds in 2019 with a MChem degree in Medicinal Chemistry with a Year in Industry. She undertook her placement year at Roche, and is currently a Postgraduate Researcher in Chemical Biology at the University of Leeds.

Why Leeds?

Charloe studied studied chemistry, maths and psychology at A-Level and was struggling to decide which of the three to take to degree level. After much deliberation, she realised that a chemistry degree had the capacity to encompass all three aspects, from quantum mechanics to drug discovery for mental health.

She said, “This broader horizon appealed to me at sixth form as narrowing down my discipline so soon seemed rather daunting when I couldn't even decide what I wanted for dinner that day! Leaning slightly towards the more organic side of chemistry I chose to study Medicinal Chemistry.

the student union

What drew me to the University of Leeds is that it is a campus university within the heart of the fantastic Leeds city and so students get the best of both worlds – a friendly, student-orientated campus with everything you could ever need just minutes walk away. As soon as I walked down the pedestrian street in front of the Students' Union I found it hard to imagine that I could live anywhere else. The spirit on campus is always cheery and you know you belong here.

What drew me to the University of Leeds is that it is a campus university within the heart of the fantastic Leeds city and so students get the best of both worlds.

I didn't event visit the university on an open day. Instead I came for a campus tour which are held throughout the year and additionally I arranged a tour of the School of Chemistry. The light-hearted, chatty staff and students sang the University's praises and I couldn't help but fall in love with the place!

It was my extremely positive interview day experience that confirmed to me I wanted to study at Leeds. The interviewer cared about my personal interests in the field of chemistry and said that the University encourages you to explore these and by then I was sold!”

Medicinal Chemistry

“What I like most about chemistry is that most of the time, there is a right and a wrong answer and it is this lack of ambiguity that I love. As frustrating as it can be to at first not understand a concept or not get perfect crystals in labs, that feeling of relief and joy when you finally crack it is all worth it! 

The diversity of chemistry, both within the discipline and its interface with others, is great because there are so many areas you can explore. The practical aspect of chemistry is not only very useful for consolidating lecture notes but most importantly for me, provides a new challenge each time I enter the labs whether that be using a new piece of equipment or trying a new technique. Becoming competent in the laboratories is a thoroughly rewarding experience. 

The diversity of chemistry, both within the discipline and its interface with others, is great because there are so many areas you can explore.

Student life

“Student life is better than I ever imagined. You're constantly surrounded by your friends who soon become like family to you. There's nothing better than getting back home after a long day at uni to a house of your favourite people. Everybody is so friendly, it's hard to go out and not come back having made a new friend or two! There's so much to do in the city and particularly at the union – the Terrace will become your go-to in the summer, relaxing in the sun with your mates!

I really love living in Leeds. It’s beautiful. From the stunning architecture of the Town Hall to the modern sanctuary of Trinity Shopping Centre, there's something for everyone. There's so many quirky places hidden round corners and down streets with so many I'm yet to discover.”

Leeds city, Leeds trinity shopping centre

From the stunning architecture of the Town Hall to the modern sanctuary of Trinity Shopping Centre, there's something for everyone. 

Year in Industry

Charloe decided to undertake a year in industry because she wanted to find out what chemistry was like in a real-life setting. She said, “I wanted to go abroad and experience working and living in a different culture, working in a multicultural company and everyday setting to improve my language skills and to build on my confidence and networking by making new friends and meeting new colleagues. I also wanted to expand my Chemistry knowledge and practical skills to become a more competent and confident chemist.”

For her year in industry, Charloe worked for F.Hoffman-La Roche, more commonly called Roche. They are a leading global pharmaceutical company that specialises in discovering and bringing to market novel medicines to achieve their mission statement: 'Doing now what patients need next'.

She was a Medicinal Chemistry intern in the Pharmaceutical Research and Early Development (PRED) department. She said, “I was a fully integrated member of a lab team of 4 consisting of a lab head, two other scientists (one being my supervisor and font of all knowledge) and myself. I was directly involved in designing synthetic routes and molecules for potential new drug treatments.”

A typical day

“I would wake up at 06:15 and get the bus at 07:15! My lab get in very early but it's okay as it means we leave a bit earlier! Every other week or so we have a 'breakfast' where employees can network, eat croissants and drink coffee! In the labs, we set up reactions, use analytical machines, have project meetings and keep everything documented on electronic laboratory notebooks. Some lunchtimes we have 'lunch dates' with other employees or our lab which is the Roche way of networking and staying in touch. On Thursday afternoons we have a tuition course where we improve our organic chemistry, do group work and present. I really enjoy working with my lab team as they're all so friendly and I learn so much from them, so going into work each day is enjoyable as it is!

We normally leave at 17:00 – 17:30. If we need to do a food shop, we take a 5 minute walk over the bridge into Germany as food is a lot cheaper there! 15 out of 16 of us interns all live together in a big set of apartments with a shared living room and kitchen, we all cook together, chill together and discuss the day's chemistry then time for bed ready for another early start.”

In the labs, we set up reactions, use analytical machines, have project meetings and keep everything documented on electronic laboratory notebooks.

Advice and tips

“My advice to prospective students thinking of applying to the School of Chemistry would be – Do it! It was the best decision of my life and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. If you're also thinking about doing a year in industry then it definitely means somewhere deep down you're intrigued to find out what it's all about. I always think it's better to think 'Oh well' rather than 'What if'. So start writing your cover letters and CVs early, read the job adverts and customise your application accordingly, and most importantly, be yourself during the interview. You'll meet so many friends and gain so much experience.

Find out more 

Discover more about our Undergraduate degree courses in the School of Chemistry.