AstraZeneca: Will Ashworth

Will Ashworth, 20, is an award-winning laboratory scientist at AstraZeneca. Here, he explains what it’s like to work for the pharmaceutical company in this capacity

I was born and raised in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, and was educated locally. After completing A-levels in chemistry, maths and biology at sixth form, I began my apprenticeship with AstraZeneca in September 2017. I knew the lecture style learning of university wouldn’t work for me, so learning on the job and having a salary was an easy choice.

I joined the process safety group, while studying for a foundation degree in chemical science via my apprenticeship. The group collaborates with chemists and engineers to ensure the safe design and scale up of new chemical processes to support the development of candidate drugs. I’ve learnt about experimental techniques and processes involved in deriving data required for safe scale-up, often testing materials to destruction. I’ve learnt how to interpret the data to avoid potentially catastrophic chemical reaction runaway and fire and explosion hazards at scale. 

I very quickly became part of the group, contributing to a variety of laboratory experiments using different techniques, performing safety testing with all kinds of specialised equipment, including developing and validating a novel self-accelerating decomposition temperature screening tool. This has been recognised as further enhancing safety measures ensuring the team can provide the safe storage and transport of hazardous materials.

Since joining, I’ve found the culture to be open and welcoming. From the off, I was treated as an equal and a regular member of staff. I know the work I do is as important and as valued as other team members.

Studying for my degree

As part of my apprenticeship scheme, I study with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), which has seen three winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) award in the last three years, all of whom have been AstraZeneca employees, which really shows the impact apprentices can have at a global biopharmaceutical company. 

What I’m most proud of

In 2019, I was named the Chemical Sciences Apprentice of the Year by the RSC, a prestigious accolade for the outstanding contribution I’ve made to AstraZeneca. The selection committee bases its evaluations primarily on the overall quality of relevant contributions made by nominees and not simply on quantitative measures.

The selection committee focuses on a number of different criteria, including: professionalism; contribution made; personal development and personal skills such as enthusiasm and inspiring others; communication; and leadership.

I am really proud to have won this award. Doing my apprenticeship has allowed me to become an advocate for both apprenticeships and careers in science. I hope my story helps to inspire other students and more employers to realise the value of developing new talent, by investing in apprenticeships. Ultimately, the work we do can help patients and potentially save lives, making the job extremely rewarding. 

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