Our awards programme recognises and celebrates excellence within chemistry and related sciences.
Liz Jennings won a Salters’ Institute Undergraduate Scholarship in 1984 whilst studying for a Chemistry degree at the University of Glasgow. Since then, she has led an impressive career, becoming the Head of Project Management for Pharmaceutical Development for all cancer projects at AstraZeneca. Liz is also a highly engaged member of the Salters’ Alumni and the Salters’ Company. Hear from Liz as she reflects on her career and offers advice to others looking to pursue chemistry.
Tell us more about your relationship with the Salters’ Institute.
I was lucky enough to win a Salters’ Institute Undergraduate Scholarship in 1984. I was nominated by Glasgow University and before then I had never even heard of the Salters’ Company. I remember using the university library to research them before my interview!
I used my prize money to buy all of my text books for my second year at university which was a great help to me. I then began attending a few Salters’ dinners and networking events to meet other Alumni.
From 2005-2018, I was on the Graduate Awards interview panel and then became Chairman of the Centenary Awards interview panel. In 2012, I was invited to become a Freeman of the Salters’ Company and then progressed into the Livery. I was a member of the Institute Board for 6 years and I am now a member of the Court of Assistants of the Salters’ Company.
How have you progressed since winning the award?
After studying for a degree in Chemistry at the University of Glasgow and a PhD at Heriot-Watt University, I worked in Process Development for ICI/Zeneca, then Avecia, for 15 years.
In 2000, I moved to AstraZeneca (Pharmaceuticals) into Project Management in Process R&D and led the Project Management group in Drug Substance/Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient development for several years. I then moved to be Head of Project Management in Formulation Development.
In the latter part of my career, I was the Head of Project Management for Pharmaceutical Development (Drug Substance and Formulated Product) for all cancer projects in AstraZeneca, before retiring in 2013.
What do you feel has been your biggest challenge?
In the 1980s and 1990s, I often found I was the only female on the leadership team. Although I never felt I was treated differently, I did feel like I stood out. However, towards the end of my career, especially in AstraZeneca, I saw many women working in chemistry and moving into senior leadership positions. There are now many more female role models within the Chemical Industry which was lacking when I entered the field.
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement?
For my very first project at ICI, which was part of my industrial PhD, I was working on a new process route for an existing agrochemical product which led to a large drop in its operating costs and also, importantly, in its environmental impact. The achievement was recognised when it won a Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement in 1993. This resulted in a visit to Buckingham Palace and meeting the Queen. It was a very proud moment and I still have the award to this day.
What is one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
I was once told by my line manager that “you are brilliant when you are brave” so make sure you take every opportunity to do different things both in work and life. Whether it’s applying for an award, a new job, secondment or qualification, think about what will differentiate you on your C.V. If you are a Line Manager, allow your staff to learn new things, develop and grow.
Salters’ Alumni are based all over the world. They comprise Salters’ prize and award winners, including scholars and bursary holders from the Salters’ Charitable Foundation.