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Case Study: Callum MacGregor

Personal details
Degree:MChem in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry & External Placement Profile picture
School(s): School of Chemistry
Year of Graduation:Jun-2011
National of: Scotland
Employment details
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Job title: PhD student
Occupational Sector: Academia
What has been your route to getting your current position?
I studied towards an MChem in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry & External Placement and graduated in 2011. I carried out my placement at GlaxoSmithKline based in Stevenage. As well as this placement, I carried out 2 summer projects in the labs at St Andrews with Dr Stuart Conway (Oxford) and Prof Andrew Smith.
What does your job involve ?
I am working on the total synthesis of a natural product molecule known as hemicalide. I am using a combination of computational to fully deduce the structure of the target molecule and a variety of stereocontrolled reactions to carry out the synthesis.
What are the best bits of your job ?
I have learned a variety of new techniques since starting my PhD. I work in a lab with some highly experienced chemists and I am learning a great deal from them on a day to day basis.
Why were you successful?
I believe that both my summer projects and industrial placement gave me a huge advantage when it came to applying for a PhD. They gave me the necessary experience of working in a research lab which is beneficial in a PhD. It also shows enthusiasm towards research which is what potential supervisors are looking for.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
My degree gave me a solid background in synthetic chemistry which I have been able to build on in my PhD.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
I would highly recommend carrying out a summer project or placement if they are available. When it comes to starting a PhD don't panic when you feel overwhelmed by the huge amounts of new information you need to learn. It is a very steep learning curve but it does get easier. My working hours are generally 9-6 but they do vary depending on what I am doing on a particular day but I rarely have to work weekends and it is not compulsory. The lab is a very social place so it doesn't feel like a chore having to work late.