My name is Declan O’Toole and I work as a Quality Control Analyst for the Immunology Laboratory at Pfizer Grange Castle in West Dublin. My work involves performing various analytical tests on Pfizer manufactured medicines to ensure they are safe and fit for purpose to be supplied globally to patients in need. I have always had a keen interest and curiosity in STEM both in and outside of education.
Has your opinion of STEM changed since you were a teenager?
I think I have always had an interest for STEM subjects. My mind is very analytical and so I often found myself performing better in these subjects compared to others. It also helped that I found them to be the most interesting also! Science is involved in everything around us, whilst Technology and Engineering are constantly advancing and making the world much more efficient. Maths is necessary to every occupation, and having a good grasp of it can make certain tasks much easier. All of these areas can provide necessary skills not just for school and college, but for real life situations too. If anything, I think my love for STEM and its ever evolving nature
has grown over the years.
In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about STEM careers?
I think one of the greatest myths I have heard is that you end up “stuck” in the particular STEM subject you study at third-level for the rest of your live. This is utterly not true. Studying any particular subject in STEM can lead to numerous career opportunities. For example, I studied Science (specialising in Neuroscience), and am now working in the Pharmaceutical Industry and am studying a Masters part-time in Data Analytics, a subject that is massively on the rise at the moment and is one that Science graduates can move into. However, some of my fellow graduates have gone into careers in Finance, Banking, Accounting, and so on. Studying a STEM subject does not hold you back from pursuing whatever you so desire as a career – if anything, the analytical skills you learn are highly advantageous and sought after by prospective employers.
What do you love about your current role?
I think my favourite thing about my job is knowing that no two days are the same. I know that every day of my five day week will involve something different each day, such as perform varying analytical tests, the opportunity to work on various projects, procedural documentation work, and process improvement tasks to try and make our work more and more efficient.
Do you get to work with any new technologies?
The nature of the work of a QC Analyst is changing every month of every year. New and improved analytical equipment and technologies are regularly implemented to improve our throughput and rate of human error in performing tasks. For example, at the moment we are installing a Tecan automation system which is essentially a robot that will handle liquid dispensing for all of our tests. We are also installing a higher grade spectrophotometer (which is a quantitative measure of the reflection of a material) which will allow us to obtain more accurate results due to the higher grade light beam. Improving technologies has and will allow for more accuracy and higher throughput across the Pharmaceutical Industry.
Do you ever get to travel abroad for work?
There are many opportunities in Quality to travel abroad with work. Usually, this is involvedin Method Transfer activity, where a new product and test is transferred to or from our Dublin site. Our team has worked with sites in Germany, Sweden, the USA, and China over the past two years alone with product transfer work.
What kind of other experts do you work with on a day to day basis?
Working in the Pharmaceutical Industry is great because you get to work with incredible people, all of whom have different skills and knowledge to offer, with everyone either having studied STEM or have a huge passion for STEM. The advantage of being in an industry like this is that you get exposed to people who have a wealth of knowledge in a particular stage of drug manufacturing, so everyday you are learning something new and gaining your own
knowledge of the industry.
Is your current job, and the work of the wider team, making a difference in the world?
I would love to think so! The reason I applied for Pfizer – the reason I wanted to study Science in the first instance – was to try and make any difference I could in bettering our global health. So by being part of the process in getting vital vaccines onto the market, we are making a difference in the
world. Recently, Pfizer partnered with Unicef to deliver pneumococcal vaccines to children in third world countries for a fraction of the cost. Hopefully, this will lead to a significant drop in pneumococcal diseases in children in these countries.
If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would
you give them?
My main advice would be to knuckle down and don’t get too intimidated – it took me a long time to settle and trust myself in making decisions in the lab even though I knew the right answers. It’s always important to trust yourself in those scenarios and speak up if you believe in something. Every job can be intimidating initially but you wouldn’t believe how fast you learn and pick up industry knowledge on a weekly basis! Another piece of advice would be to always be eager to upskill and learn new things – it’s important to want to take on new projects and show your Manager that you are engaged in your job. Finally, ALWAYS be willing to allow change to occur – it’s a good thing!
What do you want to see change in the industry in the next 10 years?
Over the next 10 years I would love to see an increase in the use of Data Analytics techniques across the industry, particularly in areas such as Clinical Research and
Development, which would greatly improve clinical trial analysis of a greater number of patients. Another hugely important focus for me is our environment impact – I would love to see a reduction in our plastic consumption in the years to come.
Name one thing on your bucket list.
I would love to visit New Zealand!
What television series are you currently watching?
You on Netflix – I am slightly obsessed!