Thomas Wheatley

Thomas graduated from Leicester with a Master in Chemistry in 2013. He now works as a senior analytical scientist for the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and is currently on secondment as a project manager.

His role at AstraZeneca involves developing analytical methods for the characterisation and control of medicines, collecting data for regulatory submissions, and working globally with external partners to develop effective manufacturing processes.

“My studies at Leicester laid the foundations for my career to date”, explained Thomas, “the technical skills I obtained, as well as the soft skills learnt while at University, still help me today in the workplace. Every day I use the knowledge learnt in my degree to assist me in my activities at work.”

But, where did Thomas’s interest in Analytical Chemistry begin?

“I did some analytical modules at Leicester and really enjoyed them”, he said. “I was also quite inspired by my personal tutor at the time, and the research he was involved with, so I applied to be in his research group for my MChem project. I think that pushed me towards the analytical chemistry path. When I worked in that group I was surrounded by colleagues, PhD students and postdocs who were all analysts, or working on analytical methods, so that really drew me towards it.”

Last month, Thomas returned to Leicester to lead a number of careers-focused events. He shared his insights on the pharmaceutical industry with current students, with the aim of equipping them with industry knowledge, and ultimately increasing their employability in this sector. Industry professionals joined Thomas taking part in these workshops.

“When we’re recruiting for graduate roles, we find that there are really good candidates with a lot of technical skills, but they don’t have the industry context, so they don’t necessarily know how to apply their skills to an industrial setting”, Thomas said. “They get great knowledge in Chemistry from the University, but it’s hard to know how you apply that without engaging with someone in industry.”

His advice to final-year students? “Put the hours in. It sounds obvious, but your final year is very fundamental and there’s a lot to do. You’ve got to manage your course whilst completing job applications. Also, apply to everything. Everything that you have an interest in, apply to it, and put your all into the application.”

Thomas also stressed that finding the right graduate role is as much down to perseverance as ability. “Resilience is the key word”, he said, “I was rejected after sending out many applications, and the feedback was ‘great CV, too many candidates’, and it’s true. You’ve got to make yourself stand out in addition to having a great degree - whether it be extra-curricular activities, volunteering, something you’ve proactively done that demonstrates that you’re passionate enough to put yourself out there and get experience.”

As for Thomas’s lasting memory of Leicester, it’s the people. “Those relationships you build are very important”, he said, “the best friends I have made are from my time at University, me and my group of friends still all stay in touch and meet up every few months. It was a great four years at Leicester.”