Exploring the opportunities that process and chemical engineering can provide for humanity: My week at Scitech

Godalming College student, Jake, blogs about his week of work experience at Scitech.

From a very young age I have always been interested in how humans have helped people with medical illnesses or conditions to improve or extend their lives. In particular I am fascinated by how a seemingly small or insignificant thing such as capsule or tablet can help people live healthier and happier daily lives around the world. To me it encapsulates how human intelligence and endeavour has overcome challenges to make the world a better place. The science behind what happens in medicine is truly amazing! I am keen to study biomedical sciences at university and was extremely fortunate that Scitech agreed to offer
me one week’s work experience in July 2023.

Introduction to Scitech – a leading consultancy, engineering and construction company

I started my week with an office orientation and introduction to Scitech from my mentor Hazel. I was impressed to hear about the broad range of services and expertise Scitech offer to their customers ranging from mechanical engineering, architecture, process engineering to computer aided design and project management. In particular, I found the overview on building services very interesting because I had not considered how intrinsic planning makes sure the building is safe for use and also is needed before the project can even start. I was shown how the pressure gradients were controlled to ensure safety which I found interesting as I had learnt about pressure gradients in biology this year.

The monoclonal antibody manufacturing process

Hazel then introduced a research project they requested I work on during my week, for me to present back to a small group on Friday. It was exciting as not only was I being given a view of the type of work Scitech carry out, I was also being challenged to create something to deliver as though I was an employee of the company! I really appreciated being given this challenge so I could do my own research and think around a topic and be able to contribute back with some of my thoughts and ideas at the end of the week, rather than receiving information and trying to memorise them back as though I was at college. This is what I will need to do in a work environment so I thought it was a great idea and would help me to feel engaged and part of their team. In my case, I was asked to research on the monoclonal antibody (mAb) manufacturing process, which in a nutshell is an approach for creating a type of protein in a lab which can attach to cancer cells to diagnose and treat different cancers and other diseases.

Health and safety is everyone’s responsibility

On Tuesday I was given an overview of architecture from Matt, and health and safety from Brian, which was interesting as I learned that health and safety is essentially everyone’s responsibility in the office and we looked at some fascinating real life examples. I was also really impressed by the range of buildings implemented by Scitech.

Wednesday was when Nadira gave me an overview of building services where she explained how factors such as radioactivity and air circulation had to be considered. During most of the afternoon I carried on my research project and started to formulate my presentation structure as well as speaking to Ali about his take on the expanding world of biology.

On Thursday and Friday I worked fully on my project on my computer at my desk, making me feel as though I was an employee in an office conversing with colleagues. I spent the time creating a PowerPoint slide deck to deliver on Friday, and I tried to make sure I could create visually appealing slides with good content for the team to digest. In addition to this, Hazel gave an overview of many different types of laboratory equipment Scitech use, and then asked me to fill in the specifications of the equipment which was insightful.

On Friday, finally it was time to deliver my presentation to the group. I must say I was quite nervous, but I was able to get the main points across and answer the questions which were asked. I believe I was able to answer everything. When I told my parents about this they were amazed that in 1 week I was able to learn about Scitech and the pharmaceutical engineering industry, gain office experience and deliver a presentation in such a short time!

Highlights of the week

My three key highlights of the week were:

  • The research I did for the manufacture of monoclonal antibodies
  • Learning about process engineering
  • The overview sessions of architecture and building services

I would like to thank Scitech for giving me such a fascinating insight into their operations and culture. In particular Emma Dawas, Joanna Finch, Hazel Hatley and all members of staff who were extremely helpful and friendly, making the week such an unforgettable and incredible experience.

  • Read Adam’s work experience blog about how he gained an understanding of engineering and commercial management as he contemplates what career path to take.

Exploring career opportunities at Scitech

Sixth form student Adam joined us for two-days of work experience to gain an understanding of engineering and commercial management as he contemplates what career path to take. Here he shares his insights from his time with us.

My experience at Scitech was short but insightful. I experienced first-hand what it was like to contribute to a project as a member of the multiple teams at Scitech. I was constantly engaged with hands-on work by an amazing, warm, expert team of professionals in their fields. In an office in Godalming, the Scietch team is like a close-knit family.

I was placed with two teams during my two-day placement: the commercial team, and the engineering team. These teams are both groups of specialists working in their niches to provide the desired outcome for a client; whether it be a building to house a new chemical, or to create a new machine to handle a radioactive chemical. These teams offered me lots of activities so I could be engaged with current ongoing projects and see how their niches work together.

Day One: Commercial Team

Day one, I was with the commercial team. John introduced me to Scitech and gave me a rundown of some past, ongoing and future-planned projects. Then I moved to talk to the commercial team who showed me the budgeting and documenting of a project so it goes smoothly. I got the opportunity to construct a financial report to manage payments to the sub-contractors for a project with a pharmaceutical company with regards to lighting in one of their facilities. This tracked the costs of the tasks completed by their sub-contractors and therefore how much Scitech would need to pay them out for the task.

Following a financial report, I then filled out a payment certificate to confirm the payment that needed to be put through to the sub-contractor. As Scitech is also sometimes a contractor for other clients, if a project is finished late and misses a deadline, Scitech would be charged for the time they are late for project completion. To stop this from happening, if there was a delay in delivery of materials, so they could not finish constructing a certain building, a member of the commercial team would need to fill out a change order. I got some more hands-on experience doing this. In my situation I was given details about an extreme weather event that was going to affect the delivery of essential materials for the project; a change order was made to change the scheduled date of the construction of the building so that Scitech wouldn’t be charged extra money. 

Overall, with the commercial team I got a better understanding of the things they do to tie a project together and keep it running smoothly, while also getting the hang of new software including Microsoft Access and Excel.

Day two: Engineering Team

Day two, I was with the engineering team. I talked to electrical engineer Carlos Garcia who informed me of the essential role that he has in delivering the power to the buildings in a project; for any machine to work, there needs to be wiring put into place and placed carefully to ensure it does not interfere with other machinery. His niche is essential in a project, and he communicates with the other engineers with updated schematics in a 3D modelling software – BIM software

I also had the opportunity to talk to Lewis White. As a mechanical engineer, in his department he provides, or constructs, specialist equipment for clients looking for a machine that they can use to synthesize a new chemical compound. I was brought up to speed with a case study in St. Thomas’ hospital – radioactive isotopes are produced in a cyclotron, a particle accelerator that spins protons, which are attached to a pharmaceutical, which can be used in PET scans to pick up a potentially cancerous tumour. The molecule produced is fluorodeoxyglucose – cancer attaches to glucose, then the radioactive part can be picked up on a PET scan as a bright dot.

It was super interesting to have some insight on a real project that I can see for myself in action and the procedures they must go through and work together on.  It’s fascinating the specialised machines that the mechanical engineers need to deliver / produce themselves for one specific job to fit all criteria given by the client; the extent to which they’re specialised is frankly insane.

Overall, I was super happy with my time at Scitech, it completely exceeded my expectations! I’ve absolutely loved having the opportunity to come to Scitech and have a taster of what it’s like as one of the big team. Thank you!

Scitech launches new graduate and trainee programme – Xcellerate

As part of our commitment to nurture and support new talent across Scitech, we are proud to announce the launch of our new graduate and trainee programme – Xcellerate. Aimed at recent graduates and trainees from all areas of the company, this comprehensive programme aims to equip participants with the necessary personal, technical, and behavioural skills to tackle the industry’s biggest challenges.

The first cohort on the Xcellerate programme

Xcellerate is split into three pathways: Foundation, Academic, and Professional. The Foundation pathway spans two years and comprises eight personal skills development modules (PSD). These modules cover a wide range of areas including business fundamentals, enhanced communication and team skills, and problem-solving. The programme’s first module includes a Miro behaviours assessment, allowing participants to gain valuable insights into their personal areas for growth and their own personal brand and to create strategies for their career. We are partnering with Bespoke Training Services on the delivery of these modules providing participants with the highest level of professional and expert guidance.

The programme is divided into eight quarters, with each quarter consisting of a PSD module, as well as other relevant training and learning opportunities tailored to the participant’s development path. These additional activities include webinars, back-to-basics sessions, lunch and learns, conferences, and technical training. Moreover, participants will have the chance to embark on rotations every quarter, providing them with a deeper understanding of various business areas within Scitech. These rotations can last from a one-day appreciation to a month-long engagement, during which participants may contribute to small tasks or support ongoing projects.

Furthermore, participants in the Xcellerate program will have the opportunity to enrol in academic courses and/or pursue professional accreditation. These educational endeavours may extend beyond the two-year Foundation pathway, allowing participants to expand their knowledge and expertise in specialised areas and to become chartered or accredited with a professional body.

Monica Williams, Xcellerate Programme Manager, expressed her enthusiasm about the launch: “We are thrilled to enrol our first cohort of graduates and trainees onto our Xcellerate development programme. This programme emphasises Scitech’s commitment to investing in people – our greatest asset – by providing them with structured opportunities for growing their professional skills while contributing to the company’s ongoing success. I am really excited about what’s to come for our first cohort. We wish all who are involved in Xcellerate every success.”

● Find out more about career opportunities at Scitech.

Spotlight on Gareth Brown, Architect

Gareth Brown reveals why designing facilities for the pharmaceutical and high value manufacturing sector is so interesting. With a career as an architect spanning several decades, he still thrives on the challenges it produces.

Holding a lifelong passion to learn, Gareth found that after 25 years working for a range of different architectural practices, he was suddenly left feeling rather flat and deflated about his career. He had previously enjoyed working for many different size firms from small consultancies up to leading national practices. This saw him operating across the Civic, Commercial, Education, Healthcare, Infrastructure and Residential sectors.

During this time, he designed and delivered a range of buildings including healthcare, nursing homes, schools, university buildings, offices, and residential properties. He progressed to become Associate Architect for a top-ranking architectural firm, but despite taking on the responsibility of leading large-scale, multi-million-pound projects, he felt something was missing.

“The designs may look different, but technically they are similar and generate the same types of issues,” he explains. “After a while, you stop being stretched. I’ve always been a geek and loved science; I need to learn, otherwise I get bored. A few years ago, I ended up studying for an Open University degree in Earth and Planetary Science as I felt I was lacking the intellectual stimulation at work.”

Complex design

With his love for science, Gareth’s interest was immediately piqued when he was approached by a head hunter about a role at Scitech. The levels of regulation within the industry and complexity behind the manufacturing facilities, cleanrooms, and laboratories that Scitech designed and built meant that Gareth would once again find himself challenged.

“Scitech appealed to me for several reasons. The projects are interesting with truly complex challenges that really stretched my thinking. The approach to design was different; process led, and inside out.

“At Scitech, you work side-by-side with a full range of multidisciplinary teams and have access to subject matter experts with extensive experience in some fascinating fields.

“The beauty of working together as part of this multidisciplinary team, sitting together in the same room, is that you are more likely to pick up errors before they can escalate. You have the expertise on hand to identify any potential issues at a very early stage and head them off. I’ve also found that, at Scitech, there’s a genuine desire for everybody to get it right.”

Breadth of projects

Since working at Scitech, Gareth has been involved in a range of projects from the development of a hot cell suite for a radiopharmaceutical company based in the US to the development of a high-end manufacturing plant in Scotland, all of which have satisfied his need for learning something new.

“I found it incredibly interesting learning about radioactive isotopes and how they are produced and packaged,” he explains. “It is fascinating from a design perspective as you have to factor in radiation control and monitoring and consider pollution.”

Mentoring a new generation of architects

It is not just his own learning that Gareth is invested in. He has also provided mentorship to architecture students at Cardiff University and The University of Wales Trinity Saint David for several years and was keen to continue when joining Scitech.

“There is a big leap between what you learn at university and what working life is like as an architect. The mentor scheme helps to bridge that gap. Basically, we frighten the students with the reality of the responsibilities they will hold when working as an architect.”

He adds: “I was fortunate that I’ve had several mentors early throughout my career who have been extremely supportive and given me a lot of help. I promised myself that when I was able to do the same for others, I would. I’m grateful that I can do so. Hopefully I can help to inspire them, and I may well find myself working alongside them professionally in the future.”

  • For more information about careers at Scitech, visit our careers section.