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Elin analyses customised pharmaceuticals

Elin Berg is an analytical chemist at the pharmaceutical company APL. She likes her job because she has opportunity to think for herself, to work with many different kinds of analysis methods and constantly learn new things.

“I am very happy that it became my first job, she says. Then I have a lot of nice colleagues too!”

APL stands for Pharmacy, Production and Laboratory and was previously part of Apoteket AB. APL has approximately 3,000 employees and is located in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Umeå. It is a pharmaceutical company that produces extemporaneous pharmaceuticals, that is, drugs that are specially manufactured for individual patients.

- It can be anything from tablets to injections, says Elin Berg. A fairly common thing that is ordered is medicines for premature babies. The medicines on the market are too strong for them and they need a lower dose.

It may also be for example patients who need a medicine with a certain active substance, but where the pharmaceuticals that are available on the market at the same time contain something they are hypersensitive to.

Large variety of analyses

Elin works in the company's chemistry lab and performs the checks that must be made before the medicines can be sent to patients. For example, it may be about checking that the medicine contains the correct levels of the substances to be included.

“There is a great variety of medicines and that is what makes the job fun. I get to use a lot of different methods of analysis. It is probably quite different compared to quality control at other pharmaceutical companies, where there are more of the same analyses all the time.”

The customised medicines are often ordered in situations where it is urgent that they reach the patient. Therefore, lead times are short, sometimes a regular analysis may take a maximum of 24 hours from the lab being given the sample until they can release the drug, Elin says.

How did you get the job?
“After graduation, I first took some courses on the master's programme in chemistry in Umeå. Then I got a job at the microbiological laboratory at APL. I found it on Linkedin and got to interview via a consulting company. I worked in that lab for ten months and then I was internally recruited to the chemistry lab at APL.”

How do you think the studies have prepared you for your job?
“I've had a lot of benefit from the fact that we had a lot of labs. Since I am an analytical chemist, it is good that I studied analytical chemistry and I get to feel that what I studied is applicable, although you might not think so at the time.”

Moving increases job opportunities

How easy or difficult was it to find a job that was relevant to your education?
“I think it was quite difficult in Umeå and northern Sweden. The number of workplaces you can apply for is limited. Here in Stockholm, on the other hand, there is to some extent the workers' market. If you want to work in the pharmaceutical industry, there are jobs if you are prepared to move from Umeå.”

What do the development opportunities look like?
“Good I think. I'm glad I joined Life Science to get a broader foundation, most of which I work with are more niche. In my workplace you can develop by changing department, I have, for example, several colleagues who have gone from quality assurance to working with research and development.”

Elin Berg remembers her study time with warmth. She enjoyed living in Umeå and being in the programme. When she started, the Life Science programme was quite new. This meant that the students had to be involved in creating the study environment. It was difficult sometimes that the education did not follow a previously trampled path, but also fun to be there from the beginning, Elin thinks. In her class, about half of the students came from other countries. The language of education was English, which Elin thinks has given her important advantages. The industry language is English and today she feels just as comfortable with speaking English as Swedish.

How did the international climate affect the education?
“The students from other countries were very capable of conducting discussions and they made us think more and be more active, so we came away from the Swedish a little more cautious way of being.”

Elin was active in the student union during her studies. For one year, she sat on the board for her education section of the student union. She also sometimes worked in the student union house, Origo. Umeå was her first choice of place of education. She prefered to stay in northern Sweden.

How did your thoughts go when choosing your education? Why did you choose the Bachelor's programme in Life Science?
“ I think it was very much because it was given in English and was international. I weighed in between Life Science and biomedical analyst, but felt I wanted an education more towards pharmaceuticals. In high school I joined the sports programme, health and wellness with a focus on scuence. I had a fairly easy time at school, I have always been good at math and liked chemistry in junior high and high school.

Had wanted to specialise earlier

Did things end up as you thought when choosing education?
“No, I think I thought I would be more drawn to microbiology, bacteria and cells, but when we studied molecular biology I thought it was pretty boring and liked chemistry better. We studied chemistry the first year and then molecular biology for a year and afterwards I think it was a little too late to choose a specialisation when you only had one year left.”

What would you say to someone who is thinking about the same education?
“That it is very practical with all the labs you have compared to other programmes. You may or may not like it, but I thought it was good. The international aspect is also fun, you get to improve your English very much.”

Read more about the Bachelor's programme in Life Science

ABOUT Elin Berg

Age: 25 years.
From: Luleå.
Lives: in an apartment in Sundbyberg.
Education: Bachelor's programme in Life Science at Umeå University, graduated in 2017.
Job: analytical chemist at Pharmacy Production and Laboratories, APL, in Stockholm.
Hobbies: working out, skiing, hanging out with friends.
Umeå with 3 words: Close to nature. Nice people. Student city.
Myself with 3 words: Happy. Driven. Active.
In ten years: I may have moved a little north, have a family and some kind of job in chemistry.


Interview: Anna-Lena Lindskog