A partnership that is all about the chemistry

Judith Gregory is a scientist working in New Product Development Skin Health in Consumer Healthcare. She is the first of four GSK trainers supporting a program in sub Saharan Africa to train local scientists in analytical chemistry.

I’ve always wanted to be a scientist from an early age. This passion was triggered by two things; a chemistry set gifted to me when I was 10 years old and a disregard for the set’s prescribed experiments; the combination of which resulted in me coating my mum’s kitchen in a layer of orange gunge.  After finishing school, I wanted the opportunity to work and study and was offered a role in an Analytical Chemistry department on a Day Release Scheme, the equivalent now of an apprenticeship.

During this early part of my career, I specialised in fragrance and odour analysis, within a specific area of chemistry that I remain hugely interested in.  While my current role is focused on a different area of science, thankfully I am able to pursue my interests through a partnership GSK has with the Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) Pan Africa Chemistry Network.  The RSC’s network connects the global chemical science community to build local capacity and enable excellence in chemistry across Africa.

Our partnership with the RSC network is an important part of our investments in sub-Saharan Africa, designed to address pressing health needs and contribute to long-term growth in the region.  Aside from our partnership with the RSC, the strategy also includes creating an R&D Open Lab to increase understanding of non-communicable diseases and support the development of local skills and capabilities in science, engineering and public health.

As part of this partnership we aim to support and develop a chemistry training programme with the aim of training over 400 scientists like myself from across Sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years. Importantly, up to 10 African trainers will be trained to deliver the workshops so that the programme can endure beyond the life of our partnership.

In June 2016, I attended the workshop in Kumasi, Ghana as the first GSK trainer. A five day programme covering everything from simple theory to troubleshooting, the workshops have been a real eye opener, allowing me to understand the difficulties and challenges the delegates face in Africa. The one thing that’s stuck with me from each workshop so far is the pure enthusiasm of the delegates. They really wanted to be there and with only 15 spaces awarded out of every 100 applicants, they had a real sense of achievement. The scientists made every moment count and crammed in all the information they could get. At some points we even had to force them to leave at the end of the day!!

It’s hard to overstate the importance of these workshops and the partnership behind them. As scientists, we learn from each other and can only develop through sharing information, understanding each other’s needs and building skills where they are needed. I feel very privileged to be part of this process and am excited to see what comes next. Today we are at the beginning of our journey, in five years time who knows where we will be.

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