Rachel Staines

Forensic Science BSc

Forensic Science offered the transferable skills I needed to work in pharmaceuticals.

What attracted you to Kent and to this particular course?

I originally intended to study Pharmacy but I didn’t get the grades I needed in my A-levels, so I had to consider other options. I knew I wanted ultimately to work in the pharmaceutical industry so I looked at the different routes I could take to achieve my goal. That’s when I came across Forensic Science at Kent. With a strong focus on chemistry and analytical techniques, it offered the transferable skills I needed to work in pharmaceuticals. I came to an open day and loved it.

What was the course and the teaching like?

The course was so varied – we had lectures, seminars, workshops and laboratory sessions. My favourite module was Forensic Physical Methods, a second-year module where we were taught evidence recovery methods in lectures and were then able to put it into practice. The department set up crime scenes in the woodland area and we had to go out in white suits to collect evidence and then write a witness statement – it was great!

What did you think of the support available?

It was really good. The lecturers were always very helpful and more than happy to talk through any content you weren’t sure about. The support I got from the Student Support and Wellbeing team was massively beneficial throughout my degree, too, especially during the exam periods.

How would you describe your fellow students?

We were a really friendly, diverse group of students: there were a lot of full-time students living on campus or in Canterbury, and also those who travelled from home and several mature students, too.

What did you do during your year in industry?

I spent my third year on placement at a company based at Kent Science Park, which is about 20 miles from the University. As it is a small company, I was able to take on a number of responsibilities and add loads to my CV. I was also able to continue living with friends and commute from Canterbury each day so I was still living the student lifestyle (to an extent)!

My industrial placement definitely helped me to align my experience, studies and what I wanted to do career-wise. I also formed a great friendship with my manager on my industry placement and still reach out to him when I need any career advice. The industry experience helped during my final year, too – after being in a professional laboratory environment for a year I was far more confident both when working autonomously in the lab and when giving presentations to academics.

What support did you get from the University of Kent for life after your degree?

I completed the Employability module during my final year, something I would definitely recommend. It was really interesting to consider how what you put on social media accounts, for example, could be perceived by potential employers. I also had a CV writing session with the Careers & Employability Service, where I was given loads of resources about graduate schemes and also material to help me to put together a scientific CV.

And what are you doing now?

As I had hoped, I’m now working in the pharmaceutical industry and have been since graduating. I’m currently a quality control analyst, working in a lab testing biopharmaceuticals. The testing helps to determine the shelf life of products and also checks that they are suitable for use in clinical trials.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d like to continue working in the pharmaceutical industry, whether that be working up into laboratory management or moving into a scientific writing role; I’m not too sure yet. I don’t think many people know exactly what they want to do in their career – even after graduating!

What are your best memories of Kent?

I was really lucky to be a student during the 50th anniversary year: there was a Ferris wheel outside the library and fireworks to celebrate. I loved living in Canterbury for four years, too ­– the city itself is lovely and with Kent being a campus university you get the best of both worlds.

And what advice would you give to somebody thinking of coming to Kent?

Take advantage of any relevant work experience opportunities that pop up, whether that is a year in industry or just a week over one of the holiday periods. My previous two employers both commented that the work experience on my CV gave me an advantage in the application process – it shows you are committed to your future career if you are prepared to work either for free or during your holidays to gain valuable experience.