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Advancing his career

Beakers full of pills, test tubes and a pipette

There are often many pathways to the same destination. Michael Wall had worked for a clinical trials company for years before he realised that in order to advance his career, he would need a science degree.

He looked at where he wanted to be in his career and came to the conclusion that a degree in chemistry could get him there.

“I saw that the University of Reading offered a route to a BSc in Chemistry, called the OpenPlus route, which meant I could do two years of study through the Open University and then two years at Reading.”

After speaking with the senior tutor in the Department, Michael decided to switch from the BSc course to the MChem with a Year in Industry. He didn't want to end up with a good degree, but no hands-on experience. He found the support in the Department to reach this decision useful.

“It's sometimes very hard to know what you should be doing in the bigger scheme of things. I knew that I wanted to work within the pharmaceutical industry, but I wasn't confident that I knew the best way to get there.

"So, for me, it was a matter of speaking to someone about the possible routes. I was advised that doing a year in industry would be a fantastic experience.”

Finding a placement

Once Michael had confirmed the direction he wanted to take his degree programme, he met with the dedicated placement tutor in the Department.

“She sat down with me and showed me where people had done placements before and went through the boxes that needed ticking in order to satisfy the placement criteria for the degree. Then we got into the details of how to write a letter and behave in an interview.”

Michael looked at lots of companies before finding the right fit. He found a placement with ProSynth Ltd, a company that provides custom chemistry services for pharmaceutical and materials science companies. He helped them develop some cutting-edge light-emitting compound technologies.

“Everything that could be in place to support you finding a placement is there. You're helped as much as you should be.”

More opportunities for hands-on-experience

Before starting his placement, Michael took part in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme (UROP). This gives undergraduates an opportunity to conduct a six-week research project over the summer holidays.

“When I started my placement I had just come from six weeks in a lab at Reading. I was already accustomed to techniques and operating procedures, which helped me transition into my placement easily.”

Learn about the OpenPlus route at the Open University's website

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