After 4 years studying for a BSc and with graduation fast approaching, I, like many others, still had no idea what I wanted to do when I entered the ‘real world’ of employment. I jumped at the first job offered to me, worked as an Economist for a year and quickly realised that I was unhappy and that this was not the job for me.
Completing a Masters
Thinking back to what I had enjoyed as an undergraduate, a medical statistics module sprung to mind. I knew I needed to do something about my situation and so headed back to university to streamline my studies, embarking on an MSc in Statistics with Medical Applications, in the hope that this would lead me into a career that I was better suited to.
The course was not easy, but I found the fact it had a true focus made it more interesting to me than much of what I had learnt during my undergraduate degree. The one year course flew by, and before I knew it, it was graduation time again! Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I didn’t rush to look for a job at the earliest opportunity; instead, I opted to start job hunting towards the end of the academic year, once I had had more time to research what was available.
Doing lots of research into the industry
The PSI careers fair (usually in February) was a fantastic opportunity to chat to a range of industry statisticians, from those that were just a year ahead of me, right through to people with 20+ years of experience. There were introductory talks on becoming a statistician and exercises for all attendees, as well as the opportunity to wander around the stands at your leisure to try and suss out the options available to a young medical statistician.
Enthused by the people I had been speaking with, I was now excited to get back into the world of employment. After all I had heard and researched on becoming a statistician, I decided I wanted to work for a CRO as it seemed that this would provide me with a good variety of projects to work on. I was also naturally swayed towards a smaller organisation, as I knew this would give me the chance to be a very valuable member of the team and would hopefully mean I was exposed to a vaster range of subject areas to work in.
My experience working for Veramed
I have now worked for Veramed for over two years, and was absolutely right in my assumptions. I began working as a statistician on early phase trials that were mainly immunology based. My everyday tasks included reviewing many study documents, from protocols to study reports and statistical outputs, as well as writing statistical analysis plans and attending study meetings. This exposure to the overall study process meant my knowledge of the everyday workings of a clinical trial rapidly expanded. I also learnt to program in SAS, largely using it to produce descriptive data outputs or to run analysis on trial data.
One of my favourite aspects of working on early phase trials is being involved in the initial research and design. The trials I work on are often for rare diseases and I always find learning about these fascinating, as I gain a real insight into the underlying foundations for the study. There is often a lack of historical literature available for these rare disease areas and so I do feel my research skills and ability to find useable and relevant data needed for a design have greatly improved. Study designs I have worked on range from those that use a basic frequentist methodology to more technical Bayesian designs, which are becoming more and more common in the industry. After building up a wealth of experience so far, I am now in the position of being able to be the lead statistician for trials, as well as work on higher level projects that relate to the development of a particular compound for a number of studies, rather than simply working on studies as standalone assignments.
Apart from working on designs and ongoing clinical trials I have been able to work on veterinary studies too, which has been a learning curve that I think will be beneficial because the process and regulations are different to that of a clinical trial. I’ve also recently been lucky enough to work on biomarker projects, which is an exploding area of interest in the pharmaceutical industry, where the modelling of genetics data is used to predict whether a patient is likely to respond to a particular treatment.
Attending industry conferences
In my time at Veramed I have attended the PSI conference twice; this provides an excellent chance to meet other statisticians in the industry and to learn about new statistical techniques and current hot topics. Presentation objectives range from increasing awareness of the latest regulatory guidelines, to exhibiting the new and ever adapting techniques used to improve processes and combat common problems in clinical trials. I have also been able to attend multi-day statistics training courses to ensure I have an up-to-date and in-depth knowledge of methods used in my everyday work.
In summary, the two years I have spent in industry so far have been both interesting and challenging. My team is encouraged to share knowledge, which is extremely useful in a CRO because people will be constantly gaining unique experiences depending on their particular projects and client relations. In my current role I feel that I have been continuously able to develop, through working on a wide variety of projects, while taking on more responsibility over time. I know that challenges in the coming year will ensure that I am able develop professionally further still and I am very much look forward to doing so.