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Featured Apprentice Story


Caitlin Cooke, a Quality Control Laboratory Technician, is a final year Microbiology Laboratory Technician Scientist Apprenticeship at AstraZeneca. She has just completed her study for a Foundation Degree in Biosciences with Kent University.

In her first and second year of her apprenticeship Caitlin worked in the Process Assurance Team which is part of Quality Control Microbiology. She quickly became fully trained in performing environmental monitoring, incubation and reading of results from sterile and non-sterile production facilities. In her third year she was offered an opportunity to go on secondment to Pharmaceutical Technology & Development (PT&D) Microbiology Group. Caitlin’s role in this group was to perform laboratory studies to develop microbiological methods for new products coming through development.

During the transition to her new role the pandemic hit which meant we could not move Caitlin to her new role immediately and she needed to be flexible and train a replacement apprentice and learn the new role. At the same time the challenge to introduce rapid sterility for the AZD1222 product as an alternative to the traditional method was given to the PT&D team. This was a high priority project and only one other member of staff could use the instrument so she had to be flexible to support both areas to make sure we hit the tight deadlines for the project without affecting release of other products to patients. Whilst completing the AZD1222 project she was also was asked to lead the same piece of suitability and robustness testing for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Monoclonal Antibody Drug and she authored all the documentation to complete this piece of work herself.

Caitlin was recognised by the AstraZeneca Apprentice Leaders as a “Hero on the Front Line” and asked to provide a statement and photograph for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 response communications. She presented her project and experience at the National Apprenticeship Week internal AZ event. Her knowledge now in rapid microbiology far exceeds many of the other more experienced microbiologists which she has learnt from performing many different trials with alternative media supplier, environmental isolates and troubleshooting instrument and method issues. She has achieved consistently high marks in her University Course and used the Rapid Sterility as her Final year Project which is a fantastic piece of science. Caitlin was also interviewed by the Science Industry Partnership publication to promote the value of apprentices in scientific roles.

Caitlin has pushed her personal development by taking the opportunity to go into the development group for a year. She has learnt about new technologies that could help the Quality Control lab when she returns there later this year. Her experience in her final year especially with rapid sterility demonstrates her interest in science and the practical and scientific values of modern technology.

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