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Postdoc programme: Discover how far you can take your science

At AstraZeneca, we’re pushing the boundaries of science, turning great ideas into life-changing medicines. We’re driven by the challenge of taking research into new, unexplored areas, the thrill of discovery and the potential of our work leading to the development of drugs that change the course of medicine.

About the programme

The results of this focus on science are obvious, with new drugs being delivered to patients and our science being published in leading journals. Join our Postdoc programme and you’ll enjoy the opportunity to join these efforts and carry out cutting-edge science, supported by one of the world’s leading pharmaceuticals companies.

Find out more here

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Programme details

The Postdoc programme

Based at one of our sites in the US, UK or Sweden, you will be part of a vibrant Postdoc community, working on highly innovative, even ground-breaking work that originates from scientists and clinicians across our research areas. As part of our wider Postdoc network you’ll be encouraged to get together with your peers to socialise and share experiences around your science and projects. You’ll also be encouraged to attend scientific conferences and seminars to show your work, which we would expect to be eventually published in the leading journals from your discipline.

To achieve these goals, you’ll be supported by experienced AstraZeneca scientists, as well as an external academic supervisor – a respected scientist who will help guide your work over the course of your time here. Teamwork is critical at AstraZeneca and you’ll benefit from the collaboration and guidance of your colleagues to help drive your success. 

Who we look for

You’ll be the kind of scientist who lives for research. Someone who loves the thrill of hands-on science, challenging the way things are done, introducing new techniques and generating fresh ideas. Someone who wants to contribute to the next big scientific breakthrough.

Always looking for new approaches, you’ll enjoy working in an environment that offers you the freedom to explore and implement your ideas.

You will need a science-based PhD and/or MD plus a strong record in a field such as biochemistry, physiology, molecular and cellular biology, pharmacology, computational biology/chemistry, informatics, medicinal chemistry, biophysics, structural biology, DMPK, safety & toxicology, clinical research and trials, modelling and simulation, and/or statistics. Just as important, you’ll combine a natural curiosity with strong technical ability and a genuine love of science and what it can achieve. 

How to join us

  • The majority of positions are advertised from February/March of each year and are available to apply via the website. Additional opportunities may become available throughout the year. Please follow AstraZeneca social channels for announcements.
  • You will need to complete the online application form that is associated with each of the position. If you are interested in more than one position you will need to fill in an application form for each one. It is important that you take your time to complete your application in full as we place a lot of importance on all areas of the application form.
  • Short-listed applicants will be invited to a skype-like interview to aid in selection prior to a final assessment centre at one of our core R&D Sites.
  • Successful candidates will be offered a start date convenient to them and the supervisor but usually within three months of the offer.
"You’ll enjoy the opportunity to join these efforts and carry out cutting-edge science, supported by one of the world’s leading pharmaceuticals companies."

Meet our people

Nick – Chair of the Postdoc Committee

Nick – Chair of the Postdoc Committee

What will Postdoc scientists get out of the programme?

We hope that, principally, the postdoc will have an excellent scientific experience here at AstraZeneca. With access to significant resources and exposure to the cut and thrust of drug discovery, we view the programme as a launch pad for the next steps in your career, whether it’s in a big company or start-up. We’re also very committed to ensuring postdocs publish well from their time at AstraZeneca and have the chance to attend the best conferences in their fields. This ensures they leave AstraZeneca with a very attractive set of achievements and experiences.

In the opposite direction, I’ve always found that postdocs bring a lot of energy, enthusiasm and excitement for science to our labs and inspire the scientists around them. Together the postdoc experience at AstraZeneca can be very rewarding for all of those involved in the programme.

How does the programme mix academia and industry?

On the programme you have your own academic supervisor and are expected to bring them in to engage with your project. I think this gives our research projects real academic credibility, because you have access to an absolute expert in your field for advice and help with experiments, potential access to tools and reagents and support in publishing. It’s all designed to make sure you, as a postdoc, get as much out of your time with us as you possibly can. 

How does AstraZeneca differ from other companies?

AstraZeneca has committed to the Postdoc programme as a leading source of scientific innovation for the company. I don’t see such an investment in many other places. For instance, we’re making investments in emerging technologies such as gene editing, stem cells and advanced drug delivery. Working in such areas can really give Postdocs an advantage as they move beyond AstraZeneca.

I truly believe AstraZeneca has a more open, supportive and team-focused culture than you would find in a lot of other scientific organisations. Exposure to such an environment can only enrich the postdoc experience.

Rose – Postdoc Committee member and previously Chair of the Committee

Rose – Postdoc Committee member and previously Chair of the Committee

Why did you set up the Postdoc programme?

I was the Committee Chair of the Postdoc programme from its inception in 2010 through to 2016. There were two main reasons why we created the programme. Firstly, we wanted to give our scientists additional opportunities to undertake cutting-edge research, to enhance and rejuvenate the research we do in our laboratories. This is important, as innovation underpins the long-term success of our business. Secondly, as there were few opportunities for postdocs to find out what it was like to work in industry, our programme gave them the chance to experience this first hand. In the longer term, this benefits everyone involved, as it provides great training for the next generation of industry and biotech science leaders.

What makes your programme stand out?

First of all, it’s an academic-style Postdoc in an industrial setting, working with leading scientists in pharmaceuticals and, importantly, we also have an external co-supervisor who is an expert in the relevant field of research. It’s also about doing uniquely exciting and fun science that’s important for the world and benefits our company – and is a great interface between academic science, which is understanding-focused, and industrial science, which is goal-focused.

Secondly, it’s an evolving programme – and that’s driven by the postdocs themselves. We seek feedback and improvement on the programme from our postdoc ‘customers’. They’re an integral part of our committee and bring in ideas and suggestions from the whole community. We take these seriously and act where we can to improve and strengthen the programme.

Thirdly, we positively encourage and support attendance at international conferences, working with the postdocs to try to get podium presentations and to publish their work in well-respected journals.  Proof of the success has been recent publications in journals such as Nature, Nature Chemical Biology and Cell Metabolism e.g. Leptin, BMI, and a Metabolic Gene Expression Signature Associated with Clinical Outcome to VEGF Inhibition in Colorectal Cancer. Pommier AJ, Farren M, Patel B, Wappett M, Michopoulos F, Smith NR, Kendrew J, Frith J, Huby R, Eberlein C, Campbell H, Womack C, Smith PD, Robertson J, Morgan S, Critchlow SE, Barry ST. Cell Metab. 2016 Jan 12;23(1):77-93. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2015.10.015. Epub 2015 Nov 25.

Finally, of course we provide a well-equipped environment to undertake the research.  More important though, is the team spirit that you find everywhere in the company.  There’s such a willingness to help you succeed, so if someone in your group doesn’t know how to do something, there’s probably someone here who does – or who will know someone who does.

What happens after the programme?

The majority of our postdocs stay in the pharmaceutical industry. This includes working for big pharma, small biotech and small start-up companies, including ones driven by the postdocs themselves. Of course, this career option isn’t for everyone and some postdocs do go back into academia. This is good too, as they go back with a better understanding of the drivers and needs of the industrial world and will likely be our future academic collaborators.

I think the fact that most of our postdocs stay in industry afterwards shows we have created a fit-for-purpose programme, providing an opportunity to show you can do innovative science in industry, which has the potential for social benefit in the longer term.

Di – Postdoc Scientist, Nano Engineering, Inhalation Applications

Di – Postdoc Scientist, Nano Engineering, Inhalation Applications

My background is in biomaterials and biometrics, but I was always looking for new opportunities to move in different directions. When I saw an advert for the Postdoc programme at AstraZeneca, it seemed like just what I was looking for.

I come from a pure academic background and I was interested in working in industry, but I didn’t want to stray too far from research. As a scientist, the most important thing for me is working on interesting projects and the Postdoc programme offered a combination of industry and academic research. This project was relevant to my background, but it also gave me the opportunity to extend my knowledge, so I feel like I’m learning something new every day.

My project is really meaningful – for the first time, we successfully demonstrated an atomic scale surface modification of pharmaceutical particles that have the potential for advanced drug delivery applications. This fulfilled the goals of the initial research plan and caused a lot of interest in continuing the research, with people in different areas asking about collaborating with us. As a result, we’ve successfully gained a third year extension on the project. This will be a chance to look at producing new results, as well as giving me more time to publish more papers.

In my work I have access to all the instruments I need for my project and I get lots of support from colleagues. It’s helped me to change from being a purely academic researcher into an industrial researcher.

What I enjoy most is the work environment – it’s very inspiring and you can tell it’s a real scientific research institution. I feel like my heart belongs here. 

Him – Postdoc Scientist, Precise Genome Editing, Transgenics - Reagents and Assay Development

Him – Postdoc Scientist, Precise Genome Editing, Transgenics - Reagents and Assay Development

My work is focused on optimising techniques for spatial and temporal editing of the genome in the Precise Genome Editing group. I trained as a biochemist and cell biologist and have experience of working in different areas, from translation and protein folding to cell cycle and DNA damage signalling.  I developed an interest in genome engineering and started looking for a position in industry that would give me an opportunity to learn how to apply my research. AstraZeneca stood out, because it’s a big pharmaceutical company, which doesn’t only focus on drug manufacturing and production, but also has a very strong scientific focus.  

I’ve learned a lot here – not just in developing my scientific career and doing cutting edge research, but also learning other skills. For example, I’m taking a role as the Postdoc representative at the Gothenburg site and I’ve also been involved in representing AstraZeneca at different careers fairs. I’m also an advisory board member for a small start-up business in Lund. This has all helped me in developing my communication and managerial skills. 

I think the thing I enjoy most about working here is my research. I also enjoy meeting different people and working with my colleagues. But I don’t have to stay in research, there are lots of opportunities for me to move into other areas in the future. That could involve moving into a management role and running projects.

If you’re committed to what you want to do in research, this is a great place to come. AstraZeneca have lots of collaborations with leading universities and institutes. If you’re motivated, you can do good science here. They also recognise the work you do – I recently won an internal IMED Science Award for my research, which made me feel very proud. 

Carolina – Head of Companion Diagnostic Unit, Cardiovascular and Metabolism

Carolina – Head of Companion Diagnostic Unit, Cardiovascular and Metabolism

I think two of the main things that have impressed me since I joined AstraZeneca are the collaborative spirit and the diversity of projects. You interact with a lot of people and disciplines around the global organisation.

For Postdocs, I think the scientific drive is very important. You’ll be working on exciting projects that will take you completely out of your comfort zone – it can be very rewarding and interesting. For example, I am involved in the Genomics Initiative, which is a bold, visionary project for AstraZeneca that is driven by science. It is a big highlight for me to be part of it.

If you’re used to working in academia, you’ll need to be open to new ways of working in industry, because it can be very different. A lot of your work will involve talking to other people in different areas to help with your project, so the ability to network and get other people interested in your work is very important. So you need an open mind, with the ability to network and connect with other people.

The Postdoc programme will help your career because you’ll be embedded in a pharmaceutical environment. You’ll also be involved in some really novel, cutting-edge science, which could be translated into something that might benefit patients. This means that you’re learning a lot every day and working on exciting projects. You’ll also be working in a new environment, which I always think is a good thing, because it makes you think about things differently. 

Richard, Computational Chemist, Computational Chemistry Group

Richard, Computational Chemist, Computational Chemistry Group

The science going on here is very interesting – it’s an exciting place to work and a great place to find out more about the pharmaceuticals industry. What’s surprising is that it doesn’t really feel like you’re working for a big company – it’s very friendly and feels more like a small company.

One of the big differences compared to academia is the teamwork you get involved in. I’m responsible for my own project, but I have lots of opportunities to interact and collaborate with people in other departments, on different projects. For example, I’m shadowing one of the live drug discovery projects and attend their weekly meetings, which gives me a chance to see what this kind of project involves. This has really helped me to build a network of people in my field.

The atmosphere of teamwork and collaboration has also helped me with my own project. I presented some of my work to the chemistry department and this gave people the chance to see how it could contribute to their projects. This led to a couple of collaborations, which not only helped their work, but also gave me a wider data set for my project.

That’s one of the best things about working here – you can be involved in a variety of work from day to day and there are always opportunities to learn new things. By drawing on other people, I’ve been able to take my work beyond my own expertise, which makes it more impactful. It’s really rewarding, knowing that a piece of work I’ve done is part of a bigger project that will help design and produce better drugs in the future.

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