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MSc student: Valerie Millar

Name

Valerie Millar

Current job

MSc student in Statistics with Applications to Medicine at the University of Southampton

Key quote

“Seeing how a pharmaceutical company works on my undergraduate placement year was a brilliant experience and it really confirmed that this is the career path for me.”

Length of career

One year

Career in brief

I did my undergraduate degree in mathematics and statistics at the University of Plymouth. While I was there I did an optional placement year at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in their clinical respiratory department.

I got to see how clinical trials work, how they are set up and reported. I also got involved in using data and statistics in lots of different areas.  

Seeing how a pharmaceutical company works was a brilliant experience and it really confirmed that this is the career path for me. I just wouldn’t have got that at university – at university you are given pre-prepared data, so seeing what it’s like in the real world was great.

I might not have gone into this Master’s without the placement experience, and I’ve found the real-world experience to be invaluable in how I approach my work now.

I spend my days: I love my Master’s! It’s probably pretty similar to most taught Master’s and undergraduate degrees in that my time is split between lectures and coursework, and of course exams and my dissertation.

Career highlights

I’ve had so many positive experiences already. One of my favourites was sitting in on a team meeting on my placement. Being able to follow and understand the brilliant statisticians’ discussions – and learn from them – was a really engaging experience. Analysing the data is fantastic but discussing options with experienced colleagues was great. I also found looking at the final results of trials really exciting.

Biggest challenges

I was nervous about coming back to university after my placement. Not many people had chosen to do a placement, so most of my coursemates had graduated. But everything turned out fine in the end, and my new coursemates were very friendly.

Skills I need to do my job

I’m not sure it’s a skill, but you need to be really dedicated. It helps if you enjoy what you do like I do! Time management is really important: juggling coursework deadlines and exams can be a challenge.

I am inspired by

My grandparents are both disabled and are on quite a lot of different medications. I’ve always been involved in helping them and seeing how difficult it can be to find the right treatment combinations has made me really aware that it isn’t an easy process.

I loved both chemistry and statistics at school, and I’m fascinated by how drugs are made. So when I went to university and found out that I could use statistics in medicine, it seemed like a great combination.

Next steps

I found out recently that I’ve got a job as a biostatistician with Quintiles, a clinical research organisation. My job will be to analyse and report on clinical trial data. I’m really excited about starting my career in this field once my Master’s is over.

Further information

How MRC funds Masters courses

RCUK expectations for postgraduate training

Opportunities for MRC-funded students

MRC informatics vision and strategy