Data Analyst Simon Norman talks to Members' News

16 Apr 2013

What does your current job involve?
I am a Data Analyst at Penn Pharmaceuticals in the Analytical Services Department. As a contract company, the laboratory tests products for release to the European market. These products are either made at our site or made by the client.

We perform the testing and produce a certificate of analysis and release to the market by a qualified person (QP). I am responsible for collating the data for these products, performing statistical analysis and writing reports for the client during the year. I also assist the QPs with an annual review of the results produced by our laboratory.

Some products may be entered into a stability study. This is where the product is stored in chambers that are set at a defined temperature and humidity. After a set period of time a sample is removed and tested by the lab.

This is repeated several times and can last up to three or four years. In this way a profile of the drug product can be built up and any changes in assay, or build-up of impurities can be monitored. Again statistical analysis can be applied to assess the data and reports are written to show any trends in the data, and to assist our clients in establishing a shelf-life for their product.

I joined the company in 1995 as an analyst in the quality control laboratory testing the raw materials.

We use classical wet chemistry techniques such as titrations for assay determinations and precipitation reactions for limit tests and identification. Instrumental methods are also used such as infra-red, UV-Vis and liquid and gas chromatography. I spent two years in our quality assurance department checking results and documents before moving to the position I hold now.

Did you have an interest in science from childhood?
Yes, I did. I remember growing crystals using a kit I had as a present. I also had a crystal wireless that I assembled and received radio signals with, which fascinated me. I also had a model steam engine that I later used in a physics project at school.

How did you decide that you wanted a career in science?
I enjoyed science at school and my teachers encouraged me to continue, first to A-level, then to university. I did mathematics, physics and chemistry at A-level. Chemistry is such an important subject in the modern world and underpins all sorts of products that we take for granted, from the paint we apply to our houses, to the detergents we use to clean our clothes, to the advanced materials used in the construction of cars and buildings. I decided to study chemistry at university.

What are the most important things you've learned in your career so far?
One of the most important things in industry is communication. Even small changes or improvements run smoother if you explain the changes and benefits to everyone involved. An associated topic is training, so that processes are completed in a consistent manner. Being well organised is also very important. We are currently going through several efficiency exercises at our company, so my desk is looking a lot clearer!

Would you have done anything differently?
Although I wanted to enter the pharmaceutical industry after university I took other jobs to gain experience. I count myself lucky as I have enjoyed all the positions that I have had.

What would you say have been the significant milestones in your career?
My first job after university was with a very small company. There were only seven of us and we were setting up a new laboratory to make and test new washing powders for textiles. This was a very interesting time as we dealt with suppliers of analytical equipment and tested washing performance with colour analysis. It was my first experience of working as part of a team, and I learnt a lot from the other members.

What key things would a young person need to do if they wanted to get to the position you've achieved?
I would advise them to work hard at school and college. Make use of employment agencies. I had two placements in the cosmetics industry through an agency, before I moved to the pharmaceutical industry.

How did you first become involved with SCI and what has that involvement meant for you?
I joined SCI while I was studying for my PhD. I enjoy the main articles in C&I magazine and browsing the new appointments in industry.

If you hadn't pursued a career in science, what would you be doing now?
I did briefly consider joining the navy as a teenager but did not pursue it. My other choice might have been a chef as you can experiment with different techniques and flavours.

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