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Sonia Norris’ Healthcare Analyst Internship at IHS

By uczjsdd, on 3 May 2016

Internships, placements, work shadowing….when it comes to selecting a career they’re all great ways to ‘try before you buy’. Some UCL PhD programmes contain a mandatory placement period, a few months where students must do something unrelated to their research. These prove invaluable to the students involved, so in this series of posts we hope to spread the career knowledge by speaking to three PhDs about their placement experiences.




Interview by Shadae Samuels, Placements and Vacancies Officer, UCL Careers.

Photo taken from stuart.childs.

Sonia Norris is a current PhD student with the London Interdisciplinary Doctoral Training Programme; based in Tessa Crompton’s lab her PhD project is studying the regulation of erythropoiesis by Hedgehog (Hh) signalling. Prior to starting her PhD, Sonia gained extensive lab experience as a research assistant, which has intensified during her PhD programme. Having acquired such lab experience, this urged Sonia to learn something new and explore other work areas which could benefit from and nurture her analytical and writing skills. Although healthcare consulting was an unfamiliar field to her, Sonia was attracted to the nature of the role; serving a wide range of clients from the healthcare industry, government health ministries to universities and more. This made the role of healthcare analyst the perfect option for her PIPS placement, to provide her with the opportunity to work in a different setting, gain some new skills and to find out if this would be a viable option for her after her PhD. Sonia secured a 12 week placement with IHS who provides information and analysis to support the decision-making process of businesses and governments in various industries. She was supervised by the Life Sciences Director, Gustav Ando.

How did Sonia secure her PIPS with IHS?

Sonia initially researched large consultancies where she speculatively sent her CV and cover letter, and she applied to relevant opportunities promoted by the placements team. Sonia also used her personal contacts that put her in touch with pharmaceutical companies. Sonia had a friend working in the sales department of IHS who managed to put her in touch with the Life Sciences Director to discuss the possibility of taking her on as an intern. She then arranged an informal interview with the Director at which point they offered her a position!

What was IHS looking for in their placement student?

IHS was looking for someone with a great analytical mind and a good writer. They expected that the intern would be able to use their analytical skills to complete daily analysis write up which they envisioned would be the hardest aspect of their processes to master. Sonia quickly exceeded their expectations and was able to perform at the same level as an analyst who had 2-3 years work experience!

What did Sonia do on her placement?

During her time at IHS, Sonia was able to participate on all the work processes of the research and analysis team. She received extensive training and exposure to Same Day Analysis (SDA) writing which she began undertaking after an initial observation period of two weeks. Once immersed into SDA writing, Sonia wrote two brief 300 word stories and eventually reached the analysts’ daily target of five stories. SDA stories are a summary of a published report by a news reliable source. Her published stories covered an array of topics including mergers and acquisitions, drug collaborations, pharmaceutical company financial results, new drug approvals, intellectual property regulations and patent litigations, new government regulatory developments , R&D and clinical trial results, funding and expenditure, pricing and reimbursement (P&R) regulations and healthcare trends. She was granted full responsibility of the following emerging markets for one month; India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.  She also wrote two  3,500 word monthly bulletins for IHS’ ‘World Markets Healthcare’ (WMH) service, which provides a summary to clients on all major regulatory developments, mergers and acquisitions, drug collaborations/alliances and new drug approvals that took place across the globe in the past month. Sonia had the opportunity to present at the 8-weekly Life Sciences round-table meeting, where she made a concise summary of all the major regulatory developments and healthcare industry changes that occurred in her assigned markets in the past two months, and received extensive P&R training by a senior IHS P&R analyst.

What did Sonia gain from the experience?

Sonia acquired a multitude of skills and benefits from her placement and it certainly gave a boost to her self confidence. Her extensive involvement in SDA writing, where she wrote concisely and effectively while researching the topic at hand, under time pressure, boosted her writing, organisational and time management skills. More importantly SDA writing nurtured her analytical skills, where she was required to put a new reported story into context with respect to the existing market features it falls into. The analytical side of SDA writing also propelled her to write succinctly using data pulled from several different information sources. Additionally, by focusing her SDA writing on specific countries, she acquired in-depth knowledge of the markets she was assigned to.

How did the placement contribute to IHS?

IHS was extremely impressed with Sonia’s performance and now looks forward to having more students/graduates from UCL.

What is Sonia and IHS’s advice to a PhD student contemplating doing a placement?

Placements provide practical work experience which is an excellent addition to one’s CV especially as many PhD students come straight out of a Bachelor or Master’s program, and have little or no work experience.  Placements completely  immerses a student in a different working environment which enables them to determine how much they miss lab work, and whether the placement position is a line of work they would contemplate after their PhD. Even if the placement role may not be a career choice for you after your PhD, it still provides a new and unique work experience, which makes for a positive addition to your personal development. Undertaking a placement is great way to build up your contacts in and out of industry.


If you’re a UCL PhD or researcher wondering how to secure work experience or a more permanent post, book an appointment to speak with one of our advisers. And for advertised opportunities check out UCL Talent Bank and JobOnline.


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