Breaking down life in fermentation

  1. 06th Jun, 2022

I started with Ingenza in 2010 as a research assistant in the molecular biology department, upon completing a BSc in infection biology at the University of Glasgow. After two years in that position, I moved across to a role in fermentation, as I really liked the teamwork aspect involved in that department and, today, I’m a senior scientist.

Weekly life in fermentation varies hugely, although one thing is consistent ­– we are always very busy! We perform a range of activities in the department, mainly optimisation of fermentation processes and enhancement of bioprocess conditions to maximise strain performance, working with a number of different microorganisms. Sometimes, a customer knows which species will suit their application, or we can offer advice. Each species or strain is very different; they can have different growth rates, optimal growth temperatures and oxygen demands, and some are just harder to work with than others. We conduct cell banking, sterility testing, agar plate streaking, gram staining, characterisation of microorganisms, and training of junior staff – and that’s just the lab work! We also process large quantities of data and write customer reports; it’s a diverse role.

Each project has its peaks and troughs; it can pass from our department to chemistry for a period of time or back to molecular biology to make changes to a strain. This means we are always working on a number of projects at the same time, which is one of my favourite things about my role. There are seven of us in the department, and we often work on a split-shift rota so that we can continuously monitor our fermentation processes. Good communication and teamwork are vital to ensure that anybody can pick up what is happening in a certain project at any time, both within our team and between departments. 

Our labs are based in the Roslin Innovation Centre, which is part of the Easter Bush campus at the foot of the Pentland hills. There are great facilities on campus, including a number of canteens allowing us to all go for lunch together. This gives us the chance to sit and chat with people we don’t work with day-to-day, which is really nice because, although it sounds clichéd, everyone at Ingenza is lovely.