Claire McDonald works in Global Regulatory Affairs at AstraZeneca and discusses her route from undergraduate to finding the right role.
I grew up with the childhood dream of being a Forensic Scientist, volunteering in a mortuary during my sixth form summers and applying to six universities to study Forensic Science. Upon discovering that Forensic Science was perhaps not as all-encompassing of detective work as the BBC dramas made out, I realised that life as a Forensic Scientist meant life in the laboratory.
I discovered a passion for human genetics, immunology and the pathology of disease during my Biochemistry lectures at university. I majored in my final year to study straight Biochemistry, writing two dissertations, one trying to identify reoccurring genetic mutations within leukemic tumour samples, the second on cauliflower viruses!
Science and a suit
When asked what I wanted from my ideal career, I used to say ‘if I can combine science and a suit I will be happy.’ With this in mind, I began applying to a wide range of private and public sector graduate schemes during my third year studies that would enable me to gain skills and experience in the corporate world and away from the laboratory, however still underpinned by my love of science.
I was offered a job as a graduate trainee working for BayerCrop Science; I accepted the job and relocated to Cambridge straight after graduation and travelling Asia for two months. The 18-month training programme saw me working within the sales, marketing and regulatory affairs departments. During my first introductory session with the Regulatory Affairs Director, I knew I had found a career path offering the perfect combination of ‘science and a suit’. Working with agricultural products and pesticides however, one thing was missing…..patient care.
It was time to move on and find my first role within Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs. Without wanting to relocate, Cambridge with a high concentration of pharmaceutical, biotechnology and start-up companies was the perfect location to begin applying for my first Regulatory Affairs role. Two years, one promotion and an exponential learning curve later, having worked within the EU Regulatory Affairs department at Amgen I was keen to broaden my horizons and further enhance my regulatory knowledge. Successfully securing a Global Regulatory Affairs Project Manager role, working for AstraZeneca in Cambridge was the logical next step.