Student profile
Sophie Vernon, BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science

Sophie Vernon

"I think online learning is a great option, especially as there are opportunities to ask questions after lectures. I’ve found being able to contact people and get responses quickly very useful."

Entry year
2017

How are you coping during the Covid-19 crisis?

One of the things that’s really helped throughout the lockdown has been working from home and carrying on with my placement year at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in the Clinical Pathology Department of Ware Research and Development. Having work to complete and a structure to my day has kept me motivated and helped me adjust to the circumstances. Living at home, I’m thankful to have family around me.

I speak regularly with my friends to share experiences and break up the day, giving me something to look forward to. I’m continuing to make the most of all the opportunities that my placement can provide. 

How has Covid-19 affected your placement?

I started working from home a week before lockdown began and I’ve not been back to GSK since. Before this, I spent six months in a split role, between the laboratory and the office, but I’ve been notified that for the remainder of my placement, I’ll be working remotely. Although disappointing, this is very understandable, given the current circumstances.

I’ve replaced the time I would usually spend in the lab, with new day-to-day tasks, like working on large data extraction and review projects. I’m writing a report and putting together a presentation based on my project, both of which will be useful for my department in the future. I’ve also had the opportunity to complete online training courses for the analysers in our lab and I’m in the process of completing my Platinum Leader Industrial Cadet Award, by writing up a logbook about my year.

Despite not gaining as much lab experience as I’d hoped for, I’ve developed new skills while working at home and have seen a side to my role that I may not have experienced otherwise.

"GSK hosts lots of development events for placement students - we had a virtual interview skills session, a placement student forum, and a development day consisting of talks, panels and a chance to ask questions to the company’s CEO!"

How have you found online working?

Initially, I was concerned that working from home would have a big impact on my placement; I felt I had just found my feet and had lots of opportunities arranged for the rest of the year. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve taken on new projects, worked with people from different departments, and I’ve become more independent.

GSK hosts lots of development events for placement students, many of which are still going ahead virtually. These are a great way of improving skills outside of my role and finding out more about the company. For example, we had a virtual interview skills session, a placement student forum, and a development day consisting of talks, panels and a chance to ask questions to the company’s CEO!

Finally, our department is renowned for its tea breaks and Friday morning breakfasts, and we’ve continued these remotely. There’s a strong network of placement students at GSK, and we have regular virtual tea breaks and other events, maintaining the social side of my experience.

Do you have any advice for other students?

I think it’s important to structure your day and take breaks when working online. I’ve found it difficult sitting in front of a screen all day, especially when I’ve been used to spending time in the lab. It’s also important to keep in touch with others in your team and stay up-to-date with what’s going on.

Finally, I would recommend reaching out to people if you need help and ask questions while working – people are often more than willing to have a chat about the work they do and answer any questions - this has helped enhance my placement experience.

How do you feel about online learning next semester?

Given the current circumstances, I think online learning is a great option, especially as there are opportunities to ask questions after lectures. I’ve found being able to contact people and get responses quickly very useful.

Find out more about online and hybrid learning at Surrey, plus other information for prospective students.

Discover more about our undergraduate biosciences and medicine courses, including our BSc (Hons) / MSci (Hons) Biomedical Science course.

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