My path to molecular biology started from a general interest in science and slowly developed into my passion and a career here at Ingenza that I enjoy very much. I did my undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences at the University of Dundee and, because it covered such a wide range of scientific areas, it gave me an opportunity to learn a little about each of them. However, I struggled to identify with just one field of interest, which led me to a master’s degree in cellular and molecular biosciences at Imperial College London. Here, I completed three lab-based projects focused on cancer, infectious diseases, and protein expression and purification. My studies really expanded my scientific knowledge and helped to confirm my fondness for being in the lab running experiments. So, when I started job hunting in Scotland and found an opening at Ingenza that allowed me to continue in research, it all just slotted nicely into place.
My path at Ingenza
At the moment, I am just finishing a really interesting project on biofuels that has been quite significant for the company.
A big concern for me when I first joined Ingenza was my career progression opportunities as I had left academia without pursuing a PhD, which is the ‘typical path’ in science. However, since starting as a Research Assistant in the molecular biology team, I have been successfully working my way up in the company and was promoted to Senior Scientist last year! So, my role has definitely evolved since I joined the company, bringing with it not only more responsibility, but also opportunities to represent Ingenza at external conferences, which I enjoy. At the moment, I am just finishing a really interesting project on biofuels that has been quite significant for the company. I was responsible for designing and implementing new ideas for the development of high throughput screens and assays, so I was still able to do what I enjoy most, spend time performing hands-on lab work.
A fun and collaborative environment
There are two aspects that make me especially excited about my job every day. One is that the work is so innovative and relevant to present times; the projects vary a lot and are continuously incorporating new technologies, so I am always learning. But, perhaps even more important is the social side of working for Ingenza. Everyone here is very welcoming, works well collaboratively and really appreciates their team members. It comes very naturally to all of us to collaborate across different functional departments as there is a lot of overlap between the different teams and we are constantly interacting with each other. This kind of work environment has really benefited me in my career progression, as well as in my personal development. Everyone gets a chance to gain experience in different techniques and areas of research, which I think is very unique to Ingenza.
Everyone gets a chance to gain experience in different techniques and areas of research, which I think is very unique to Ingenza.
Mentoring is also a big part of this, for example, I am currently training a junior member of the chemistry group on some molecular biology techniques and the day-to-day aspects of the biology lab. We also have an internship programme, which gives students a taste of research in a company environment although, obviously, this year that’s been a little different!
The intern in the zoom
When the first lockdown began, everything was very unknown, however, our health and safety department responded so rapidly and, because we were used to working collaboratively, we all adapted easily to the new rules. This included working with our intern who lives in Belgium and couldn’t travel to the Ingenza site. Instead, we had zoom meetings twice weekly to discuss her progress and even managed to give her a virtual lab tour! I think it has worked well, even though it was a steep learning curve for both her and for myself, as her virtual supervisor.
Staying sane through the pandemic
It has certainly been a strange year for most of us! I am very thankful for my colleagues at Ingenza, and also for the fact that I was able to keep up with my hobby, beach volleyball. Right up until the last lockdown, when we were still able to exercise outdoors, I used to meet up with my team down at Portobello Beach and get some games in. That’s really kept me sane throughout the whole pandemic, especially during the winter months – we even bought ourselves floodlights so we could keep playing in the dark! It’s just such a great way of releasing stress, having great fun, being part of a team, and getting that fresh air and exercise!