At the end of September, Cohorts 1 and 2 were invited to visit AstraZeneca at their site in Macclesfield. Whilst there, our time was spent between lectures, interactive workshops and tours of the site, with focus placed on understanding the role of a process chemist.
Working in small groups, we learnt that there are many different things that need to be considered to make a reaction run smoothly on a large scale. From considering whether small impurities from starting materials will become big impurities down the line to examining the impact small fluctuations in temperature will have on the overall safety on the site – things that are usually easy to work around in the lab!
For me, the most interesting part of the trip was being introduced to the “Design of Experiments” methodology – a concept where experiments are chosen systematically to alter more than one variable at time. The aim is to optimise a process running as few experiments as possible, as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately though, Hannes, Claire, Bethany and I were not very good at pinpointing the correct “variables” for optimising the throwing ability of our trebuchet (luckily for all involved it was only a simulation!) – we were informed, however, that negative results are just as important as the positive ones, so we would’ve got there in the end!
I really enjoyed our trip and am very thankful for all of the staff there who gave up their time.