The secondment: a rewarding experience in Glasgow

I am currently a PhD fellow at the university of Rouen-France, originally from Lebanon where I finished my master degree in Physical Chemistry Materials and Catalysis at the Lebanese University.  In January 2017, I started an even bigger adventure when I arrived in France for a PhD position in the crystallography team of SMS Laboratory in a city on the River Seine in the north of France and the capital of the region of Normandy-Rouen-.

My PhD project “resolving stable racemic systems by mean of preferential crystallization” is one of fifteen projects in the doctoral training program CORE which is a four year Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) focusing on Continuous Resolution and Deracemization of Chiral Compounds by Crystallization which started on the 1st of October 2016.

The CORE network is a multi-partner European project, it includes 8 academic institutions as full beneficiary partners and 7 associate partners across 6 European countries. It provides challenging research training program completed with a PhD. We will have the possibility to gain experience abroad and in private sector by being seconded to other beneficiaries and partner organizations for a duration up to 30% of time.

What is a secondment

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Many people do not realize that it is possible to improve and gain new skills and explore different career possibilities by temporarily working in an institution other than their employing institutions. This is often known as ‘going on secondment’.

For instance, my employing institution is Université de Rouen, France. During the 3 years of my PhD project, I will have the opportunity to go and work in Strathclyde University, Glasgow, UK, University of Magdeburg OVGU in Germany and a non-academic partner, PSE, Process Systems Enterprise a leading supplier of Advanced Process Modelling software and model-based engineering and innovation services to the process industries in UK.

During my work in my host institution and by help of these many secondments, I will be able to complete my training with disciplines useful for my career, and develop also transferable skills by working on joint projects.

The true worth of my secondment experience: development of skills and knowledge

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The most immediate benefit for me during my secondment in Glasgow was getting a ready, hands-on many apparatus available in the Lab as Crystal-16, Raman and single crystal X-ray diffraction to deal directly with kinetics and crystal structure of my products. To be successful in most secondments, you have to be willing to learn new things and to practice outside of your speciality. This secondment pushed me to see a new side of my PhD, it was the perfect opportunity to try something entirely different from my normal work routine and give me the chance to take on a role with more responsibility.  21 of August 2017, the first day of my secondment training in Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences a leading center for research focused on new medicines, better medicines and better use of medicines.

Secondments have many benefits through developing, sharing and enhancing skills, it is an ideal way to improve skills and learn new ones. At the same time, they can offer a valuable career development opportunity, with the chance to make new contacts and gain experience within a different working environment.

Gaining an experience on such project early in my career opens new potential pathways for my career as well as being a beneficial addition to my CV.

My experience while on secondment, with both its risks and challenges, gave me many fresh, new perspectives that helped me grow both personally and as a scientist by giving me a competitive edge and help me building confidence and self-reliance.

A new working environment

2017_12 Lina 4Secondments are an ideal opportunity to travel to a new location and work in new laboratories and meet new people and new friends.

Whilst a different working environment will simply be more exciting because it will be a change of scenery, but it will also show your eagerness to try new things, learn new social techniques and meet new co-workers sharing with them an open office workspace. In this way you will likely become acutely aware of your true capabilities and forced out of your comfort zone because a positive work environment makes employees feel good about coming to work, and this provides the motivation to sustain them throughout the day.

My ability to be open and friendly to everyone, and communicate my questions or concerns when I need to, helped me adjust quickly to this new work environment. It is the perfect way to put all your professional skills to the test, recognize just how competent you are and find out what you need to learn very quickly.

The other side of secondment: trips around Scotland

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2017_12 Lina 6Clyde arch, Glasgow, Scotland

Secondment will offer the chance to gain experience of other cultures, build cultural awareness and working styles.

I did gain new language skills, discovered new culture, taste new food, visit new cities and discover a huge part of Scotland’s geography from wild coastlines and pristine beaches to rolling valleys and towering mountains to big cities with incredible historic architecture from the 18th and 19th century.

 Lina Harfouche

Lina Harfouche
SMS Laboratory
University  of Rouen-France

Lina Harfouche, PhD student in the university of Rouen-France in the SMS laboratory.  Her project is to develop a screening methodology to quickly and reliably determine the crystallization-based resolution possibilities of a new chiral compounds, development of methods for assessing the solid state and phase diagram by measuring solid state changes and solubilities in complex multicomponent systems of chiral compounds. Special focus will be given to racemic compounds and the effect of racemization and racemizing agents on the solubility and solid state changes. Finally, these methods will be integrated into a screening tool for the crystallization behavior of chiral compounds in complex multicomponent systems. Lina is one of the 15  Early Stage Researchers of CORE Network Horizon 2020.


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