- Course: Medicinal Chemistry (Industrial) MChem, BSc
When I was in high school in Dulwich College Shanghai, I originally applied to Leeds to study medicine.
After securing an internship at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica to study therapeutics targeting G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR), I decided that it wasn't the treatment of patients that particularly interested me, but the actual medicines.
As a result, I withdrew my applications for medicine and applied through UCAS Extra to study medicinal chemistry at the University of Leeds.
The School of Chemistry features some of the most prominent researchers in the country and the set-up of the course suited my interests, so I was thrilled when my application was successful.
The University of Leeds appealed to me as I felt it was the optimum balance between work life and home life. The city of Leeds is an ideal location to live as a student as it’s affordable, has lots of local amenities and social activities going on.
When I was in my second year my wife, (then girlfriend), became pregnant.
Although it was stressful at the time, this turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I truly believe that the motivation and support offered by my daughter and wife is what has helped me to succeed at university, I couldn't have done it without them.
My life took a dramatic shift from student to family man, which allowed me to reach my true potential. I couldn't be happier.
Shortly after the birth of our daughter, we moved to Cambridge where I undertook an industrial placement with Pfizer.
Whilst there, I investigated mesoporous silica as a solution to poor solubility of drugs in clinical development. This was a transformative year for me as it gave me a passion for drug development and delivery.
My work with Pfizer culminated in a successful in vivo pre-clinical trial. It was presented to colleagues across the globe in a worldwide pharmaceutical science meeting, at the conference for the World Meeting for Pharmaceutics, Biopharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Technology in Glasgow and it’s currently being written up for a scientific publication.
This is when I first got into contact with Merck, who provided me with the opportunity of a lifetime, as you’ll read below…
During my final year of university, I have been working in the lab of Dr Paul Thornton on biodegradable polymers for controlled drug delivery.
Paul has been an excellent supervisor and has eased the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate by providing me with an excellent undergraduate research project alongside the freedom to take it in my own direction. I would strongly encourage any students interested in polymer chemistry or drug delivery to consider a research project with Paul.
It was during my final year that I received the honour of being nominated for a Salters' graduate prize 2016, which I was awarded. This was in recognition of my potential to contribute to the chemical industry in future.
I was contacted and informed that I had been invited to apply and be interviewed to be the School of Chemistry’s nomination.
The application asked lots of questions about motivation, knowledge and experience of the chemical industry and my future plans.
After this was completed, I was interviewed (along with two other students) by Prof. Blacker and Prof. Rayner, this was a very relaxed and enjoyable interview and felt more like a chat than an interview.
During the process we discussed my past experience, my future plans and my knowledge of the problems facing the UK industrial base. By the end of the day I was contacted to let me know I had been selected by the department.
Each chemistry and chemical engineering department in the UK is entitled to submit a nomination, given the high numbers involved I wasn't too confident that I would be shortlisted. I was thrilled when I was informed I was one of 20 students nationwide (10 chemistry, 10 chemical engineers) to be shortlisted!
This required me to travel down to London to interview with the award panel. The interview was hosted in the Barber-Surgeons hall as the Salters' hall was undergoing refurbishment.
The award panel including some of the most impactful scientists in UK industry, including the first ever CEO of AstraZeneca, Sir Tom McKillop. Ultimately, 10 people were selected for the award, including me!
I was incredibly happy and proud to receive the confirmation letter in the post. The prize includes a £1000 cash prize as well as an awards dinner in London on the 9th of December 2016.
During my final year, I have also gone through the process of securing a PhD. I have been awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship to complete my PhD at Merck in Germany.
The work will continue on from my research in Pfizer and will be around "development of mesoporous silica technology for delivery of poorly soluble compounds".
My PhD is part of a new project "Pharmaceutical Education and Research with Regulatory Links " (PEARRL) and is funded as part of the HORIZON 2020 framework.
The aim of the project is to "deliver novel bio-enabling formulations and new biopharmaceutics tools to predict their in vivo performance as a means to improve efficiency and cost-competitiveness in drug development, thus facilitating earlier access of patients to “breakthrough therapies”.
My PhD will see me based in Merck in Darmstadt, with planned secondments to The University of Frankurt (where I will be listed for the PhD) and the BfArM in Bonn (the German drug regulatory agency), in addition to week long visits to the other research centres across the EU for networking and education activities.
My wife and I are looking forward to moving to Germany in October 2016 and are excited to experience a new culture and travel around Europe. We are also thrilled at the prospect of enrolling our daughter into a German nursery, so she can teach us the language!
It is my intention to enter into the pharmaceutical industry after completion of my PhD, ultimately I am interested into progressing into management and leadership in the future.
I’m so grateful to the University of Leeds for providing me all of the opportunities listed above.
Particular thanks must be extended to Professor Colin Fishwick, who offered invaluable support during the duration of my degree, and my MChem supervisor Dr Paul Thornton.
I am excited to demonstrate the quality of a University of Leeds chemistry degree to our European counterparts, as well as the pharmaceutical industry.
Final thanks must be extended to my wife, I couldn't have done any of this without her constant support, encouragement and laughs.