Hi, my name is Lavaniya Kunalingam and I work at AstraZeneca in the R&D graduate programme.
My name is Lavaniya, I joined the R&D graduate program in Gothenburg in September 2017 and I am currently on my second placement. I am a graduate from an Engineering school in France with two Masters in Science (one in Chemical Engineering and the other in Organic, Bio-inorganic and Therapeutic Chemistry).
I am a chemist by training but I’ve always been interested in working at the interface of chemistry and biology. More specifically, I aspire to be a chemical biologist studying the field of oncology. The R&D graduate program appealed to me as the perfect opportunity to fulfil my scientific curiosity, by letting me develop as a scientist and gain a deeper insight into the different fields I am passionate about.
This program is allowing me to acquire a broad experience starting from organic/peptide synthesis to cell and molecular biology. I completed my first placement in the oncology field within the Discovery Science department. I worked in a multidisciplinary team, exploring the application of extracellular vesicles (EVs) in the delivery of siRNA targeting KRASG12D in pancreatic cancer. I had the opportunity to become familiar with a range of cellular and molecular biology techniques as well as discover exosomes-based therapy which is an emerging field in oncology. Throughout the placement, I was supervised and trained technically and theoretically by experts in the field. I was also exposed to work closely and present my work to many departments within AstraZeneca, both locally at team meetings and across sites in global project meetings (Oncology in Boston and Cambridge, Pharmaceutical Sciences in Gothenburg, etc…).
After my first placement in biology, I wanted to strengthen my experience as a chemist. I am currently on my second rotation in another innovative and emerging field of drug development: New Modalities (peptides and oligonucleotides based drug) in the Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity department, where I work on the synthesis of stapled Bicycle® peptides for inhibition of cytokine receptor interaction.
The graduate program does not just allow young scientists to work on exciting, live projects at AstraZeneca, but it also helps us to develop our so-called soft skills with three, different, Global Development Modules where all Graduates across the sites meet in Gothenburg, Cambridge and Boston. Those modules are led by professional coaches and help the Graduates to consolidate many professional skills. Furthermore, during this two-year program, a Team Leader/Principal Scientist is assigned to each of us as a mentor to give us advice and guide us on our career to become better scientists.
During this program, I am gaining extensive knowledge, a broad scientific network, diverse experimental skills and a deep insight into chemistry and biology. In my opinion, it’s the perfect opportunity for a young scientist to learn and train in a world-renowned pharmaceutical company where the science is great and the atmosphere is supportive.