Course studied: BSc (Hons) Applied Chemistry
We now offer: BSc (Hons) Chemistry
Do what excites you and if something does not work it is important to learn from it. Making mistakes is how we learn!
More about Andrew
We spoke with NTU alumni, Andy Robbins, to catch up about his exciting role as Senior Solid-State Scientist at AstraZeneca (AZ) and to reminisce about his time at NTU.
As a solid-state scientist, Andy supports early-stage projects to select the optimal solid form to nominate into development. This involves ensuring that the solid is stable, both physically and chemically, and importantly that it possesses physical properties that allow further processing. As the solid state is seen as an inventive stage, patents are issued when relevant, meaning that Andy is named as the inventor on several patents. In order to support multiple projects, Andy works with different teams across AZ sites. This means that his ability to communicate clearly and concisely has been vital in his success. From week-to-week, the project timelines can vary and therefore Andy’s ability to prioritise his workload is fundamental.
In addition, Andy carries out research on new techniques to optimise how AZ works. He achieves this by reading papers, carrying out laboratory research, supervising PhD/Postdoc roles and at times attending conferences. The challenges that he encounters in this role are wide and varied and he particularly enjoys that there is not a ‘typical day’ at work.
Andy’s impressive career path has not been without its’ setbacks, from experiments not going to plan to unsuccessful job applications. However, each setback has been a valuable learning experience – “It is these setbacks that I have learnt the most from.” Andy explained how the result of an unsuccessful experiment can provide a huge amount of learning and understanding, and unsuccessful job applications can be used as an opportunity to identify areas for improvement. “When something does go wrong, you are more likely to remember this and apply the learning in 10 years time than when something went right. You may not know why it went right, but you will know why it went wrong.”
A notable highlight of Andy’s career is his involvement in projects to develop drugs which has positive impacts on the lives of patients. In the future, Andy is determined to continue to push himself to reach his full potential. He strives to branch out into new areas and continue to develop his vast scientific knowledge.
Andy has always been interested in physical chemistry, and as an undergraduate he was fascinated by the idea of two solids reacting with each other very slowly over time. “The more I learnt about physical chemistry, the more exciting it became.” Like many students, Andy was unsure of what he wanted to do after university. His advice to NTU students is “It’s ok to not know what you want to do when you leave uni!”. He also recommends thinking about what you enjoy, your personality and how this could fit into a career path. “Asking your friends how they see you is a useful one, are you always in the centre of the group, are you understanding, supportive? Being in a role that fits your personality is so important.”
If Andy could offer one piece of advice to current NTU students, it would be this: “Everyone is different and no single piece of advice will work for everyone, be this revision technique to career advice. Do what excites you and if something does not work it is important to learn from it. Making mistakes is how we learn!”