I spent my year in industry at global pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly

Stephen Salem student profile
Stephen Salem
BSc Biomedical Science with a Year in Industry
Placement organisation: Eli Lilly
Working in the Translational Neuroscience team at Eli Lilly, Stephen was given the freedom to research and develop a new project idea aiming to discover whether he could target pain by targeting fear. Following graduation, Stephen now plans to pursue a research-based career.
Stephen Salem student profile

Initially, I applied to medicine and had Biomedical Science at the University of Birmingham as my backup. However, when this application was unsuccessful, I began to research my other options, and was immediately struck by the Biomedical Science course at Sheffield.

I found the breadth and variety of the course very appealing, and was further excited by the inclusion of human dissection, especially given that this is only the case at a few universities. I was also highly impressed by the fact that the Sheffield Students Union has been voted the best for 8 years running, making it the perfect place to relax, socialise or resolve any queries.

Fast-forward 2 years later and it’s safe to say that my experience at Sheffield so far has been everything I could have hoped for and more.

After completion of my first year, I received an email from Professor Liz Seward detailing a “great opportunity at Eli Lilly”. Previous to this, a placement year had not been at the forefront of my mind, but, following advice from the university, I decided that it would be a perfect step to take as part of my academic journey.

I would undoubtedly gain excellent in vivo lab experience whilst also getting some great insight into how the big pharmas operate.

Whilst applying for the placement, I met with Professor Seward and Helen Thorpe in the placements team many times to discuss my progress. The advice they provided was outstanding and I know that, without their assistance, the placement year would not have even be possible.


I was given the freedom to research and develop a new project idea that I could carry out in the second half of the year.

Stephen Salem

BSc Biomedical Science with a Year in Industry


My placement was based at a branch of Eli Lilly in Windlesham, Surrey. I was employed into the Translational Neuroscience team, aiming to use fundamental in vivo laboratory research to engineer new therapies for a variety of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease and chronic pain.

After completing various types of training, I began helping out many different people with their projects. This ranged from studying the link between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease in mice, to investigating how age and weight can affect learning/memory in rats.

I became proficient at a number of laboratory based skills, including animal handling and dosing, oxygen electrode calibration, running operant boxes, and drug formulations, to name a few. I also gave a number of presentations to my team, so developed a competent knowledge of a variety of neurological areas, including Alzheimer’s, chronic pain (e.g. migraine), emotion etc.

After Christmas, I was given the freedom to research and develop a new project idea that I could carry out in the second half of the year.

I chose to focus on the emotional aspect of chronic pain, and my project aimed to find out whether we could target pain by targeting fear. Myself and my supervisor developed a protocol never before carried out at Eli Lilly and we sought to find drugs that could modulate the fear conditioning process and thus have significance in treating chronic pain.

I presented the findings of my study at the biannual Centre for Collaborative Neuroscience conference in May 2018, and am due to present further results at the upcoming British Pharmacological Society conference in December.

All in all, it was a fantastic year. As well as enhancing many lab based skills, I also developed many of my transferable skills, including my organisation, communication, professionalism and creativity.


To those students that are still unsure about doing a placement, I can’t recommend it strongly enough

Stephen Salem

BSc Biomedical Science with a Year in Industry


The company also held lots of social events during the year, like christmas parties and pub quizzes, making it very easy to fit in and form important connections. Many doors of opportunity have consequently been opened and I now feel I have the necessary attributes to enter into a working life.

Before my placement, I was still unsure about whether I wanted to follow a medical or research based route. However, after the last year, I can confidently say that I intend on pursuing the latter.

The process of researching a specific topic, assessing the current gaps in knowledge and then developing a new project idea, was something I absolutely loved and want to continue doing throughout my career (whether that’s in chronic pain or some other neuropsychiatric disorder).

With this in mind, I plan on doing a PhD after my degree and then continue my research career at a university or pharmaceutical company, perhaps abroad (in America, for example).

To those students that are still unsure about doing a placement, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It is honestly a super experience and you gain skills that university simply can’t teach.

From making industry standard presentations to having porridge at 6am every morning, you evolve skills like organisation and professionalism that will be invaluable throughout the rest of your career, regardless of the direction you take.


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