Emily Xu GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year

24 August 2018

In March this year, Emily Xu was awarded the GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year title at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Competition, for her project “New Ways of Separating Mirror Image Molecules”.

The project looked at new methods for separating different types of molecules that can be very difficult to distinguish, as they are mirror images of each other. As part of her award, Emily has just completed two weeks work shadowing at GSK. Here we ask her what’s been happening since her award in March.

           1.    How did it feel to be awarded the GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year Award?

It was overwhelming to be awarded the GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year Award, it was very unexpected but a wonderful surprise.

           2.    How did you find out about the award and what inspired you to enter?

I found out about the competition through the Nuffield Foundation, a charity that promotes STEM careers and runs a scheme which supported my research placement at Imperial College London. I was inspired to enter as it was an opportunity to talk to other young people interested in STEM, to discuss my project with industry experts and hopefully inspire the younger generation to pursue an education in STEM.

           3.    What advice would you give to someone considering entering the awards?

If I could give one piece of advice it would be to not worry about the awards or prizes, but to aim to just enjoy the experience. The idea of the awards may be daunting, but be confident in your project, no one else will know it as well as you do.

           4.    What has happened since winning the award?

Winning the award has opened a world of opportunities, beginning with the chance to speak to many leading experts in STEM who attended the Big Bang Fair.  I was also given the amazing experience of discussing my project on BBC Five Live Radio and BBC Breakfast Live News. I also had the opportunity of explaining my project to a journalist for a feature article on The Guardian website. I have just represented the UK in CASTIC - an international science competition in China and was fortunate to win first place along with 6 other projects in the international competition. I will also represent the UK in EUCYS - the EU Competition for Young Scientists in September. I have been fortunate enough have receive a conditional offer for the Kingsbury Scholarship at Imperial. Additionally, GSK have provided numerous opportunities to see what a career in STEM could entail - the most valuable being a 2-week work shadowing placement.

           5.    Tell us about your work shadowing at GSK?

The work shadowing at GSK was such a valuable experience. I spent the first week in the GSK labs - seeing how a medicine goes from the drawing board to a tangible product. By talking to process engineers and chemists, I learnt about the complexity of developing a medicine - from small-scale lab synthesis to large scale industrial production. I spent my second week in Clinical Operations where I gained insight into the different phases of a clinical trial and first-in-human studies. I was lucky enough to visit the GSK site in Cambridge and speak to many different people, from study managers to wardens. I was fascinated by the extent of the precautions taken to ensure that only the safest and most effective medicines were produced. It was interesting to see how creative and collaborative STEM professions could be, but also the range and flexibility of the careers that an education in STEM could lead to. The overall experience highlighted how passionate and dedicated all the GSK employees are on making a positive impact on the world - hence reinforcing my decision to pursue a career in STEM.

           6.    What’s next for you?  

I intend to focus on my degree in Chemical Engineering and gain as much exposure as possible in different STEM industries; hopefully then I can make an informed decision on which STEM career I’d like to dedicate my time to.