Ed Bridge, a student based at the JIC, wanted to improve his technical lab skills, expand his network of contacts and learn about how scientific industry is run. Ed used personal contacts that he had to secure a placement at Better Dairy (https://betterdairy.com/about-us), a London-based company that works on inventing, fermenting and perfecting a better future for dairy.
Ed undertook his placement from January to March during his third year, the timing of which he found worked well. “I had gained enough experience from my PhD studies to be confident in my own decisions when working in a new field, and it came at a time where I am actively thinking about work after my PhD”, reflects Ed.
Ed worked with the Strain Engineering Team, looking at fungal transformation, working on microbial transformations and screening transformants, identification of novel genetic elements to expand the engineering toolkit and cloning in E. coli. The team lead helped Ed to set goals for his main project but then he had freedom to determine his research approach to achieve these goals. Ed also had the opportunity to work on a few tangential projects including using UV mutagenesis to identify new fungal strains. “I was able to work with a very experienced team to overcome some difficult problems and found that I was also able to input useful creative ideas. Additionally, I learned a lot about engineering in a new species” Ed says.
Ed also delivered two presentations during his internship, one giving an overview plan of the project to be undertaken and then at end of internship to conclude progress and future work.
Ed found it interesting to work in multi-disciplinary environment to gain different perspectives on his project. Having a team-focused approach enhanced his motivation to undertake the work, and he liked how young team of early career researchers developed a positive social environment. Ed had separate weekly team meetings to review progress and plan next steps, plus ad-hoc meetings with the team lead, which he found encouraging and supportive.
Ed noted the differences between a commercial and academic research environment including the importance of detailed note-keeping to keep track of the research approach and enable transparency. He also gained an insight into the funding landscape for small/start-up companies and the need for new business investment might take company priorities in different directions.
After getting used to the different way of working and learning the relationship between different people working at the company including different styles of management and communication Ed found he enjoyed the more rigid working day 9-5/6pm and no weekend working or afterhours work.
Ed felt his main areas of skill development included becoming more confident in decision making, learning new technical skills (with the possibility of bringing back new protocols to apply in his PhD research), creative problem-solving and enhanced communication with a research team. “I found that working on my own project in a new field gave me lots of confidence in the skills I have gained so far”, he adds.
Ed was able to gain some careers advice from discussions with upper management at the company. “This placement has really encouraged me to continue in research based science, either in an academic or industry setting, and also showed me that I really enjoy synthetic biology” concludes Ed.
Kate Royal, Head of Synthetic Biology at Better Dairy said ““We were delighted to host Ed at Better Dairy for his PIPS placement. We are committed to providing early career researchers with an insight into research in a commercial setting, and we welcome the creative ideas and approaches they bring. We wish Ed the very best in his final year of his PhD.”