Alumnus sat at a computer and smiling at the camera

Mathematics graduate Liam Sheehan on his role in the pharmaceutical industry

  • 05 March 2021
  • 3 min read

British Science Week is a national event that provides a platform for educators, professionals, communicators and the public to recognise and celebrate the work being undertaken in STEM related fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). This year’s theme is ‘Innovating for the Future’ and, with so many Portsmouth graduates working in STEM, we want to showcase the important work they’re doing and how they are innovating for the future in their roles.

Liam Sheehan graduated from BSc (Hons) Mathematics in 2009 and is a Statistics and Programming Project Manager for Quanticate. Here Liam tells us about his role, his journey since graduating and what advice he has for students and graduates thinking of working in STEM:

Everything started with the Maths department at Portsmouth. The material we studied, the lecturers who led us, and the friends I made on the course made me 100% sure that I was in the right place. I went on to do a Masters in Statistics with Applications in Medicine, and from there I got my first job as a graduate SAS programmer with Quanticate. Since then I’ve worked on a wide range of clinical trials and have been able to travel all over the world to meet our customers and colleagues.

I can vividly remember my lectures with Dr Andy Burbanks. It was his module during our third year where we were introduced to C++ programming and it hooked my interest like no other unit had. This was the course that got me interested in learning to program and sparked a desire to go out and pursue a career involving programming in industry.

As a Project Delivery Manager, I’m part of the Statistics and Programming group at Quanticate: a global biometrics Clinical Research Organisation (CRO) in the pharmaceutical industry. We support Sponsors in getting their drugs and devices to market by carrying out the statistical reporting of their clinical trial data.

Data standardisation across the pharmaceutical industry is a huge, fast-evolving topic, and the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC) are at the centre of this effort. I’m innovating for the future by working with CDISC standards every day to drive their innovation.

Liam Sheehan, BSc (Hons) Mathematics (2009), Statistics and Programming Project Manager at Quanticate

My role involves leading the statistics and programming elements of the clinical trials within my portfolio. I work with a fantastically talented team of statisticians and programmers, and with other groups within the business such as Contracts, Finance, and the Global Resourcing Team to ensure that all aspects of my trials are on track. My typical day involves a lot of communication with our teams to understand how work is progressing and thinking ahead to plan and prioritise upcoming work. I also work closely with our business team in bids to win new work for the company. This can be an exciting and interesting process as it is all about pitching our technical expertise to potential customers (perhaps the closest I'll ever get to Dragon’s Den!).

I’m so passionate about my industry and it’s really satisfying to be the team with the skills to assess some of the most important endpoints of clinical research. ‘Does this work?’ or ‘is this safe?’ are the kinds of questions we look to answer through our analysis of clinical trial data. I think that one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted is the disconnect there is sometimes between science and social media, and how easily facts and data can become distorted. I’m very proud to be part of a scientific community where evidence and reasoning informs decisions.

My advice for those looking to secure a career in STEM...

Look for the topics that grab your interest and pursue them. It’s a bit of a cliché I know but when you’re working on something that you’re passionate about, the time flies by and work really doesn’t feel like work.
A great memory I have of Portsmouth is also one of my earliest memories of it, it was my first night living in halls in first year. My new flat mates and I had just met and had our first ever night out together, and just as we had all gone to bed the fire alarm went off and we spent most of the earlier hours of the morning on the fire escape together, chatting and gradually sobering up. I ended up living with some of those flatmates in 2nd and 3rd year and we still all meet up regularly to this day.

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