Protein Biochemist Investigator, GSK

Mar 16, 2023
Protein Biochemist Investigator, GSK

An alum of the 2020 SMDP Biotech Scholar cohort, Andrea Acevedo, PhD, is the Protein Biochemist Investigator in the department of Protein, Cellular and Structural Sciences at GlaxoSmitKline (GSK). Their department sits in early discovery and it is a platform-oriented organization.

As the Protein Biochemist Investigator, Andrea makes sure that fit for purpose reagents for projects are dispatched in a timely manner. They produce large yields of high quality target proteins that effectively treat diseases and help patients . 

What is the highest degree you have earned and what can you tell us about your academic path?

I obtained my PhD in Biophysics and pursued my postdoctoral research for two years before joining GSK. My path has been very diverse, I started with an undergrad in Physics and later on discovered that molecular physics was more interesting to me. The coolest molecules ever are biomolecules which take the laws of physics and chemistry and makes life as we know it. So, I started volunteering in Biophysics labs and decided to pursue a PhD in Biophysics.

Where do you work now and what is your company about?

For the last two years I have worked at GSK. GSK is  a global biopharmaceutical company, where we unite science, technology and talent to get ahead of diseases. Being a global company, GSK offers collaboration and opportunities to research a wide range of therapeutics.

How did you first learn about the company?

I learned about GSK from the consumer products like Teraflu, Sensodyne, Voltaren, and Centrum. Moreover, during my postdoc at UPenn, a scientist from GSK did a career talk about structural biology, I started looking at the company more from the biopharma perspective and as a place to work. I also attended a career panel where scientists from GSK showcased their career path.

What do you like most about the company?

The company's culture is very collaborative, we are all trying our best to get answers and reach goals that will help patients. I feel people are passionate about science and being great people. I also like that the company looks out on employee's development, wellbeing and community service. There are multiple examples of this and you can check on GSK website or by following our CEO on LinkedIn.

What skills make you successful in your role and why did you choose this role?

Troubleshooting is a must have skill for my role, we usually get very challenging proteins for which there is little knowledge on how to get it recombinant express and purified, so there is a lot of troubleshooting and understanding what is needed to get as much fit to purpose protein as possible. Also, having a good understanding of the bigger picture, for what the reagent will be used, what is the biology that drives the project is a skill that helps prioritize the multiple tasks that we get.

I chose the role because aligns perfectly with my expertise, it was the correct role to transition to industry since I had the opportunity of learning how drug discovery works and at same time be able to deliver results. Another reason why I joined GSK and in particular my department is the culture. I knew I will have helpful people who would like to succeed and help me succeed.

How do you define success?

Doing the right thing and being calm either by the decisions you must make or by having a good balance between the things that matter to you. It is nice to be recognized by others but success needs to be defined internally and how you feel about you, the decisions you make, and how you treat others.

What's the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

Being able to help researchers advance their projects by providing the services and products needed to produce high quality data. The trust that is established and the positive feedback I get make the effort even more worth it in the end.

What advice do you have for students and job seekers?

Get to learn about the company, their culture, their values and make sure these three align with you. Be youself, you probably have the expertise and technical skills you need to sell your passion, what motivates you and if people see that, they will want to work with you. In a more practical advice, learn to answer questions using the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action and Result, and reach out to people at the same company, you will learn the culture. Always remember to make a good impression within your network for you never know what the future holds, you might get yourself a sponsor in the midst of other candidates.

What book did you read last?

I read multiple books at the same time, the last one I finished was “Fire Keeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley. I am currently reading a biography of Churchill during the first year of being a Prime Minister, a romantic novel and a novel in Spanish (I usually have at least one book in Spanish which is my first language).