Guest blog post by Skevoulla Christou (University of Surrey, Biochemical Society Intern and author of ‘Biochemists in Industry’)
Biochemists can be found doing a range of jobs in various working environments. Biochemists in Industry outlines the kind of work biochemists do in various sectors, as well as the skills required for these roles. As part of my research I met Erin, Edward and Sibylle, who told me about their jobs and how biochemistry has played an important part. Read below for a snapshot of their case studies…
Erin Mozley, Senior Clinical Scientist
I was interested in aspects of both biology and chemistry, which led me to do an undergraduate Master’s degree in Biochemistry (MBiochem) at Oxford University. At a careers fair, I came across the NHS stand and discovered clinical science. Clinical science appealed to me as it was a good mix of biochemistry and medicine so I applied for the NHS training scheme.
The main duties of my role are to run tests on patient samples, ensure machines are functioning accurately, and interpret the result into a helpful answer for medical staff. Without clinical scientists, the majority of diagnoses could not be made. My favourite aspect of the job is the day-to-day variation, including an ideal mix of computer work and interpretation with practical laboratory work, and the fact that you are always learning something new. I would advise anyone looking to apply for the NHS Clinical Scientist training programme to look around hospital labs, talk to Clinical Scientists, and find out exactly what the job is and what it entails.
Edward Beaumont, Senior Scientist
I did my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry as I was particularly interested in understanding the biological process at a molecular level. The lab where I carried out my final project developed a physics approach to understand cellular mechanism. It was a really rewarding experience to work within a multidisciplinary team including physicists and biologists. I enjoyed my final year project so much I decided to continue and carried out a Master’s and a PhD.
After my PhD, I had the opportunity to work for a biotechnology company and I later went back into academia to gain experience in protein crystallography. My current role involves supporting the medicinal chemistry department’s efforts in finding new drugs. My role is to provide molecular insight of how the drug binds to a specific protein target by performing protein crystallography experiments. Every project brings its own challenge to solve and it allows you to learn a lot from the talented colleagues you work with. I am always delighted when, as part of a team, a solution or a drug candidate is found so the project can move forward to the next step.
Sibylle Heidelberger, Support Specialist
I was always interested in sciences, so I chose biochemistry which was a nice mixture of chemistry in a biological context. My undergraduate degree was Biochemistry Co-op (BSc), a co-operative education programme meaning I went to work as part of my degree. During my final year project, I became involved with mass spectrometry and found I love working with the equipment. This led to me doing a part-time PhD while working full-time as a mass spectrometry technician.
In my current role, I support customers who have bought our instruments and help them to achieve their goals. This can involve helping with the setup, troubleshooting and training of the instruments. I like working and meeting people, whether it is at conferences or in the lab for a demonstration. I love my work; talking about it, working with the instruments and on difficult data sets. If you’re interested in this type of work or any sort of analytical work, I suggest you see if you can work or volunteer in a lab, either at the university or in an analytical lab. The key is to be interested in what you are doing as your interest and enthusiasm will work for you.
If you want to find out more about the job roles, the skills required and the pros and cons of the jobs check out the full profiles on the Biochemical Society website: http://www.biochemistry.org/Education/HigherEducation.aspx