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Alex Ashall Kelly

Research chemist for Novartis

"I am now working for Novartis in London. I‘m working in drug discovery at the GDC there, which is fantastic and exactly what I want to do"
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Stuart Leach

Research Chemist for Glaxo Smith Kline

Stuart Leach finished his PhD in Organic Chemistry in 2008 and then started work as a research chemist in Chemical Development working for Glaxo Smith Kline.

What does your current role involve?
I develop chemical routes and chemical processes which allow synthesis of drug candidates on large scale for use in clinical trials or as a route of manufacture. The syntheses can be performed on scales ranging from multiple hundred grams (in a kilo lab) to multi-kilo scale (in pilot plant).

Do you use the knowledge you gained from your studies in your job?
Yes – a knowledge of synthetic organic chemistry is at the heart of what I do on a day-to-day basis.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Getting the opportunity to redesign a synthetic route; seeing my ideas come to fruition has allowed me to make a real impact on timelines and strategy which has been very rewarding.

Why did you choose to study chemistry?
I have always been interested in science, and chemistry is at the heart of this, underpinning everything we understand about the way substances interact with each other. I found organic chemistry particularly fascinating because the more you learn about it, the more you are able to predict and understand problems that you have never seen before. Studying chemistry involves scientific thinking which is then put into practice through scientific experiments.

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?
The main drivers for me when choosing where to do my PhD were to have an interesting project and a supervisor that was enthusiastic and I would be able to work well with.

How did you find the lecturers and the facilities?
The research facilities for chemistry at Leeds are excellent, among the best in the country.

What are your favourite memories of studying at Leeds?
The research group that I worked in had a great balance of motivated people with high enthusiasm for their work and I made some good friends there. The group had a real buzz, creating a fun and inspiring work environment, which made it a great place to work.

What would you say to other students thinking of studying a PhD?
It is important to find a project which you can become passionate about, in a group and with a supervisor that you can see yourself forging good working relations with.

What benefits did you gain from the PhD?
I learned how to become an independent researcher, designing my own experiments and becoming an expert in my own field. I learnt the skills of time management, organisation, planning, literature searching and communication; as well as all round chemistry knowledge.