What was it that attracted you to this scheme?
I was aware that the Royal Society provided a range of funding schemes. My research is industry focused, so the Industry Fellowships scheme was an obvious choice. I knew that by working directly with industry it would help identify their needs, and that the scheme would provide an opportunity to develop my own research.
What were the benefits of this fellowship?
The Royal Society is very prestigious, so as well as being extremely pleasing personally, it also helped to promote the University and the School of Pharmacy.
I got to work alongside experts with a broad range of knowledge across numerous pharmaceutical technologies and processes, and I found working on key issues currently being faced by industry an invaluable experience. Importantly, the fellowship also afforded me the time to focus on my research.
As a fellowship holder, I was invited to attend Royal Society events (excellent networking opportunities) and a range of courses including the fantastic media-training course, as well as courses examining the relationship between science and industry: Science and the Economy and Scientific Entrepreneurship.
What were the challenges of this fellowship?
The biggest challenge was finding time to go to the company, especially as they weren’t based in Northern Ireland. It required balancing my academic responsibilities and my research. Before applying, you have to carefully consider whether you are at the right stage of your career for the experience to be beneficial for you, your university and the industrial partner.
You have recently finished your fellowship; will you maintain links with AstraZeneca?
We are still in contact. We have secured additional funding for the PhD students that were involved in the work as part of the fellowship and AstraZeneca (AZ) have input to their research projects.
Where possible, I continue to involve my AZ colleagues in aspects of work relating to the fellowship.
As an Industry Fellow, I held an International Scientific Seminar which brought together 20 participants including AZ. One of the outcomes of this discussion meeting was to write a number of joint grant applications thus building stronger networks of people addressing key industrial problems.
AZ has been absolutely fantastic to work with and through careful planning my group can still access equipment and facilities at AZ. We have had joint publications as a result of the fellowship and hopefully this will continue with ongoing collaborations.
How do you feel this fellowship has helped your research/career?
The fellowship enabled me to develop my network of collaborators and brought my work to the forefront of the field. The resulting reputation growth has led to us engaging in research projects with industrial partners, and forging strong links with key academic groups in the field.
Working in an industrial setting gave me a better understanding of industry problems in the area of solid dispersions. This hands-on experience has improved my teaching: now I can allude to the various experiences that I have had at AZ and I can embed research led teaching within my different teaching activities (lectures, workshops and practical classes). It has been an important stepping-stone, allowing me to tailor my teaching with the most up-to-date knowledge.
I also gathered a large volume of research data, some of which has been published in internationally leading journals.
How has AstraZeneca benefitted from your collaboration?
AZ have gained knowledge on extrusion technology and access to our expertise and equipment. They have used this to bring HME to their company to expand their own knowledge for the development of novel dosage forms using engineering technologies. My AZ colleague (Dr Jon Booth) also worked closely with QUB PhD students, gaining further experience of supervising postgraduate students.
The collaboration has yielded joint research publications, often difficult in industry settings. Jon has also been involved with poster and conference presentations, resulting in increased coverage of our research.