Two weeks have flown by since starting my first graduate job at a clinical trials research centre. I am now halfway through my first training scheme which lasts a month where I have learnt how to do practical procedures, process samples in the lab and record results for reports with regards to Good Clinical Practise (GCP).
Honestly, lab modules were hardly my favourite module at uni but having left I did miss it. If you thought your lab mentors were being over the top when they said your lab book is a legal document which cannot have pages torn out of it, trust me, they were not exaggerating in the least!
GCP is crucial even though it is pedantic and time management has never been tested this far before. Whether professional or personal, anyone who knows me will tell you about my efficiency. But when in an environment where you are taking triplicate ECG readings for up to 8 subjects at a time, not forgetting an overlapping schedule and anything over 2 minutes late will affect the entire trial, you are in for a treat!
I have found myself enjoying practical trial work and getting to know the subjects where building experience in a research environment is an effective first step into the scientific field. Those in more corporate and office based roles more than likely started off with laboratory experience. Everyone starts somewhere right, some enjoy the practical side and stay more connected to it when climbing the ladder. Others use it as a stepping stone to the office and client based work.
Without the practical experience, it is very difficult to acknowledge how the field is put together. It is better to know first hand than to read a manual. I have found that the workload is very varied and allows me to explore various aspects of a trial, naturally leading me to meet many people in posts I have never heard of. For instance, a Clinical Project Manager (CPM) meets sponsors who are essentially pharmaceutical company representatives with a new drug they want tested at a research centre. The CPM acts as a bridging associate to propose a trial which meets both the research centre and the pharma company requirements.
This role is helping me decide more and more that further education is something still consider. When graduating, I knew I wanted to be involved in research, just not how. Some of my colleagues are going on to now study medicine, having worked besides doctors and physicians day in, day out, they know exactly what they do and have been inspired by them.
Either way, I hope this shows that a research role has more to it than it first seems. It can show you which part of the scientific field you are compatible for with diverse experience to set you up for it. Especially if you are not looking to go into academia again after a BSc, most routes will allow you to excel with R&D experience as it shows you where research meets reality and how it is applied. From there, the doors are all open for you to find.