Karen McLaughlin (Senior Scientist)

Every day is different for Karen, as she looks for scientific solutions to manufacturing challenges, to ensure our customers are always satisfied.

We spoke to her about what it’s like being part of the Analytical Team at our East Leake Technical Centre and what her biggest achievements have been since joining British Gypsum.

Can you please give us a brief description of your job role?

As a Senior Scientist, my role is focused on trying to continuously develop the company’s products, by assessing them for improvement opportunities and devising solutions to deliver this. It involves a lot of planning and investigating, using a range of scientific testing methods, to work out what causes a particular result or effect in the manufacturing process.

Can you tell us a bit about your career so far?

I was always interested in pursuing a career in science but wasn’t entirely sure what that career path would look like. I initially worked as a medical representative but I gradually realised that my true area of interest was in research and development, so I moved on to a role at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, working in medical research. My husband was then offered a job in England, so we made the move down south and that’s when I applied to work for British Gypsum.

I was drawn to research and development because I get real enjoyment from problem solving. Being able to develop new solutions that help the business is very rewarding and gives me immense job satisfaction. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a range of projects that have really benefitted our customers and it makes me proud to know that my involvement has made a difference.

What’s it like working at British Gypsum?

Really good, the company looks after its staff and promotes health and wellbeing, as well as professional development. Despite British Gypsum being such a big company I never feel like my work goes unnoticed. And of course, as part of the Saint-Gobain Group, we’re also in the fortunate position of being able to offer our help or call on the expertise and knowledge of colleagues from around the world, which is a big advantage if we’re stuck on a problem and need a little help.

Has a lot changed since you joined British Gypsum?

I’m actually coming up to my 17th year with the company and there have been a lot of changes in my department during that period – all for the better. When I first joined British Gypsum’s Analytical Team it was just myself and another colleague. At the time, our role was to conduct all the analytical work for project teams and the gypsum plants in the UK. As time went on, our remit expanded to doing the analytical work for gypsum plants around the world. Now, the analytical team has eight members and a purpose-built facility and laboratory, fitted with the latest equipment and technology. It’s been hugely rewarding to be a part of this success from the very beginning.

I’ve also developed a lot personally during my time here. In 2006, I began to specialise in thermal analysis and then in the last three years I’ve moved into microscopy, in particular Scanning Electron Microscopy of our gypsum crystals. The company has been here to help me along the way and has given me all the necessary support in achieving my aims.  

What is your biggest accomplishment since joining British Gypsum?

There are a number of things I’m happy to have achieved during my time with the company, but being promoted to Senior Scientist in 2008 is my proudest moment so far. This gave me more responsibility, which was something I’d always wanted to take on. Another great achievement was leading a project team that was nominated for an award two years ago, for a test method we developed for the business. 

What would you say to someone considering a research and development role with British Gypsum?

If you’re involved in research and development, one of the biggest questions you have to ask yourself is what particular field you want to specialise in and I think some people can be unsure about the idea of working with building materials. Certainly, I know that some of the people we’ve recruited into the team over the past 10 years felt that way initially and all I can say is that very few of them have left. We have a particularly low turnover of staff; the people who join tend to stay. So I would say don’t be afraid to try things out, you never know what you’ll end up enjoying and a career in building materials manufacture could be just the thing you’re looking for.

To find out more about Karen’s work, please watch the video below

British Gypsum Careers - Karen McLaughlin

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