My first 6 months as an Intern for RSSL

Me with my RSSL starting hamper

Hi all! My name is Jack, I’m a chemistry student currently on placement at Reading Scientific Services Limited (RSSL) as a food, pharmaceuticals and investigative analysis intern.  I started my placement just over 6 months ago and my time has flown by! I thought it would be good to share what my experience has been like so far.

What is RSSL and what’s my role?

RSSL was first created by Mondelez for their own product development but this quickly turned into a client-based business, performing various different analysis for top food and pharmaceutical companies.  Now you may not have heard of Mondelez, I certainly hadn’t, but you have likely heard of Mondelez owned brands such as Cadbury’s, Milka, Oreo and Belvita just to name a few.  That means free chocolate!

Within RSSL there are lots of different labs which specialise in different techniques and types of analysis.  I am in the microscopy department which mainly analyses foreign bodies found in both food and pharmaceuticals.  So, it can be as simple as identifying a piece of plastic found within a sausage (using FT-IR), to a microscopic particle found in a medical syringe (using FT-IR and scanning electron microscopes (SEM)).  But you can get some very exciting/disgusting samples in; near the start of my placement we had a whole mouse that a customer allegedly found inside a ready meal!! Our job was to determine if the mouse had been cooked or not!

What have I learnt so far?

Well the list is endless really, apart from learning how to do my job (from scratch!), I’ve learnt how important and how hard it is to keep to certain quality standards such as UKAS and GMP.  All information must be traceable, data acquired is on calibrated instruments and deviating from anything including Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), causes lots of problems and has to be rectified as quickly as possible.

Project management has been a steep learning curve, but I’ve gained lots of experience in this due to my department being very busy and juggling several projects at one time.  Microscopy has very short turnaround times (5-10 days) and some of these projects are on expedited turnaround times (24hr -2 days).  This can cause the workload for the department to sometimes seem overwhelming.  When the workload becomes like this it is easy to panic but this is where you’ll learn the most, prioritising, collaboration and being aware of what others are doing to see if you can help each other to complete everything on time. 

Would I recommend a placement?

Of course!! This has been an excellent experience so far, not easy but well worth it.  I think its so important to try out the real world of work to see if what you’re learning about actually applies to something you want to do, that will in the end, earn you money!  But overall a placement is great and my experience with RSSL has been a good one and would highly recommend.