Our postdoc programme offers outstanding training, intellectual freedom, high-impact publishing opportunities, and, ultimately, a springboard for a great scientific career. We want to make sure there are no barriers to talented scientists achieving their full potential, so we invest in giving them the very best support and resources. With a dedicated supervisor from one of AstraZeneca’s two R&D organisations (BioPharmaceuticals or Oncology), complemented by an academic mentor, our postdocs work at the interface of academia and industry, and gain a unique combination of experience from both worlds.
In May 2019, we welcomed Chris Rhodes, Chief Scientist in Cardiovascular and Respiratory Medicine (CVRM) within BioPharmaceuticals R&D, as the new Chair of our postdoc programme. Chris’s wealth of experience, strong links to academia and passion for biomedical education mean he has the ideal background to continue to build our industry-leading programme.
A programme designed to fuel scientific discovery
Ten years ago, the ‘industry postdoc’ was a niche option for those who specifically wanted to work in ‘big pharma’. Since then, things have changed. In AstraZeneca’s R&D organisastions, we partner with top research institutions to give a programme that is scientifically rigorous, but offers a versatile skill set that opens doors to many different research career opportunities. The programme is aimed at exceptional early-career scientists with a passion for discovery and a desire to change patients’ lives. Our postdocs have the opportunity to make a contribution to science that is likely to impact the development of medicines, and ultimately improve human health.
Watch to see what our programme supervisors and our new Chair, Chris Rhodes, say about the unique programme
Our postdocs have the best of both (industry and academic) worlds. Not only do they have a fantastic supervisor at one of AstraZeneca’s R&D organisations, but they also have a dedicated mentor at a leading academic institution. The programme is truly collaborative – we know that the best science doesn’t happen in isolation, and working with our academic partners means we address important questions using our combined expertise for the best chance of success. We also offer structured training and development opportunities such as drug discovery courses, and regular internal seminars and symposia.
Opening doors to a future in science
Our programme is designed to equip postdocs with an enviably broad and sought-after skill set, making them strong competitors in the scientific job marketplace – inside and outside AstraZeneca. The most recent statistics from our alumni suggest that approximately one in five continue working at AstraZeneca, another one in five move to small biotech companies, and one in ten move to other big pharma companies. Interestingly, one in ten move back to academia. This is a testament to the career flexibility our training offers, with its valuable industry skills and knowledge built on a solid scientific foundation.
Access to the best tools for the job
In terms of facilities, we offer a rare chance to access some of the most cutting-edge equipment in the world of biomedical research. We invest in emerging technologies that could redefine medical science, including techniques in gene editing, stem cells and advanced drug delivery. We have collaborative arrangements that allow our scientists to access state-of-the-art equipment, such as a cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) facility, one of only 100 of its kind in the world.
Intellectual freedom and autonomy
We see our early career scientists as a leading source of scientific innovation, and value the enthusiasm and excitement they bring to the labs. We are looking for people with a drive to explore, bring their ideas to the table, and be a part of the next breakthrough. We give our scientists time for curiosity, enabling them to follow the science to important discoveries. We are taking our research into new, unexplored areas, hopefully leading to the development of drugs that change the course of medicine. Our postdocs don’t simply execute someone else’s ideas – they contribute to the design and development of projects right from the start.
Opportunities to publish, travel and network
Some people think that pharma companies keep their data quiet for fear of competitors stealing their secrets, but this is not the case for our postdocs. We build our scientific reputation by communicating our science at the best scientific conferences and in the form of quality publications, so we are keen to see the results of our postdocs in top-tier journals! Postdocs at AstraZeneca have plenty of opportunity to debate their science internally and externally. Importantly, this gives them the chance to build their own network, and be ambassadors for the programme and AstraZeneca.
Creating the right culture and environment for science to thrive
AstraZeneca has the heritage and experience of a long-established pharma company, but in our R&D organisations, we have tried to stay nimble and foster a biotech-like culture. We have a vibrant scientific community with over 165 postdocs across our 3 main sites in the UK, Sweden and the US. We know that people produce their best results when they look forward to coming to work every day, so we put emphasis on creating a positive working environment. We encourage our postdocs to get together with their peers to share experiences and make connections that will set them up for success during their postdoc, as well as long-term careers in science. The result: a supportive and team-focused culture, with openness that empowers people to ask big questions and take smart risks to get results. And that’s not just our opinion; in 2018, we made it into Science Careers top 20 great places to work for the second year in a row.
A lot of people ask me if the door to academia has closed behind me now I have entered into the pharmaceutical industry…that’s not the case. At AstraZeneca I can keep my academic track record, I can still publish papers and follow conferences, and be a part of the academic collaborations that we set up.”
Within AstraZeneca’s R&D organisations, we offer postdoc positions not just across a range of therapy areas, but spanning STEM disciplines including chemistry, computational data science and quantitative clinical pharmacometrics. And, of course, our programmes cover biomedical sciences from basic biology to advanced drug delivery. We need postdocs from diverse backgrounds who can bring a rich variety of expertise to keep up with the rapidly changing scientific landscape, as we look to integrate this into drug discovery.