PSI (Statisticians in the Pharmaceutical Industry) is the largest professional body for statisticians working in or with the pharmaceutical industry. It holds an annual conference, alternating between London and a European city. Luckily, starting this year means I’ll get to visit two European cities for the conference over the course of my PhD. This year, the venue was the rather grand Beurs van Berlage, the former stock exchange building, in Amsterdam.
The PSI conference was the first non-student statistics conference I’ve attended and I absolutely loved the experience. I felt like I didn’t have a minute to breathe from the Sunday evening to the Wednesday and that evening I was feeling more ready to fly home and sleep for a day than spend another two days exploring the city. But being young is all about grabbing life with both hands, burning the candle at both ends, and making the most of every opportunity though, isn’t it?
It felt like a refreshing step out of the university bubble and back into the real world, which is where I plan to go when I finish my PhD. I’ve done placements with two pharmaceutical companies and as PSI is the main conference in many people’s calendars within the field, I saw many of my old colleagues. This and the fact that through ITT5 and doing my PhD in collaboration with Roche I’ve also started to build up a network there, made the often daunting task of networking much more comfortable and enjoyable. I’m spending two months on placement at Roche this summer. Over the course of the conference, I met my manager and two colleagues who are in my team but based at a different site (Basel, Switzerland), one of which was through the Career Young Statistician networking session. This took the form of ‘people bingo’: an icebreaker to get us talking because we needed to find someone who had a pet, had never been to Amsterdam, had broken a bone etc. before everyone else did. Chocolate prizes work at any age! Meeting my soon to be colleagues at PSI was really useful because it meant that from my first day on placement I didn’t feel nervous videoconferencing with them or reaching out to them for help.
SAMBa students are recruited as a cohort and I believe each one us is offered a place because we have something different to contribute. I’m not particularly quiet about my feelings that mathematical ability is not my trump card and I spend a lot of my time at uni having no idea what people are talking about, both in seminars and in the pub! At the conference however I felt much more at home; I understood the majority of the presentations that I went to, I could discuss my research with everyone from PhD students to those with years of industry experience, and do more than just pretend to be engaged when people told me what they work on. Environments like this really help my self belief, reminding me that what I bring to the cohort is what I’ve learnt from my industry experiences. These opportunities keep my eyes on the target and motivate me to complete my PhD because I do believe I’ll make a good statistician in the pharmaceutical industry when I get there!