"It showed me that what I'm doing really matters, motivating me to work even harder"


Working on Covid-19 vaccine and cancer research trials during a year-long placement has given Mathematics student Walid Bouis Biougnach invaluable industry experience.

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Completed in 2020/21 as part of his De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) degree, Walid’s placement as a biostatistician at Parexel - a global clinical research organisation and biopharmaceutical services company - involved analysing data from clinical trials.

The 22-year-old from Morocco said: “It was a successful year and I really grew a lot. I learned how large companies work, which really helped me to see the bigger picture of how this kind of work helps people and the society.

“My placement is also helping me with my studies, as I can apply real-world experience to my final year. It showed me that what I’m doing really matters, motivating me to work even harder.

“I developed skills that I can use in my future career, like coding, hybrid working, presenting my findings and communicating.”

During the first few months of his time at Parexel, Walid was trained on the company’s statistical software to enable him to conduct data analysis. He was also assigned a mentor, who supported Walid’s development throughout the year.

Once fully trained, Walid had the chance to get involved with a number of timely, real-life studies.

“I got to work on trials for some of the big pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines against Covid-19. It taught me that making a vaccine and getting it approved is a complex process, with lots of different clinical trials and phases,” he said.

“I was working on ones that had been in development since 2007, monitoring the participants and then analysing the data.”

Walid also worked on cancer research and therapies trials, analysing data from labs and formulating it in ways that governing bodies need it.

He said: “Drugs like these need approval from all kinds of different organisations around the world, which is understandable as they can be life-changing, so it’s really important that we present our data in ways that makes sense to them.

Walid heard about the opportunity to undertake a year in industry through his faculty placement team, a part of the university’s careers service DMU Works, when he first started at DMU.

He attended talks and workshops aimed at helping students to write strong CVs and covering letters, as well as supporting them with interview techniques.

Having graduated from an American school in Spain, Walid was keen to further his education in an English-speaking country. He originally enrolled on a business degree at DMU, but within a week, he decided to switch to mathematics.

“I’ve always loved maths, so despite enjoying business subjects at high school, switching was the right decision for me. I really love how small our cohort is, because it’s easy to make friends and get to know our tutors. The teaching feels really personal, and in a way, we’re like a family,” he said.

“I love Leicester too. At the start I felt lonely in a new country and the weather took a while to get used to, but I feel like I fit in and really enjoy it now. I’ve loved getting to know different parts of the city and how multicultural it is.”

Posted on Tuesday 29th March 2022

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