PhD in Cell Biology and Physiopathology, Universita’ degli Studi di Siena, Italy
|EU Projects Coordinator & Molecular Biologist|
|AquaBioTech Group (Malta)|
Year entered into a non-academic position: 2022
Job highlight: I am the coordinator of a European Project called ProNiCare (https://pronicare-project.com/). This project is focused on improving the understanding of biofouling propagation and it involves different industries and research institutions from Norway, Malta, and Germany. As the project coordinator, I attend monthly meetings with the whole consortium, and I report any updates on behalf of AquaBioTech. I make decisions and arrange discussions with the different partners involved, to coordinate the various tasks required to achieve the designated milestones and deliverables of the project. Also, I perform and coordinate with other members of the team the ecotoxicology testing required for the project, and I work with the staff involved in the communication and financial management of the project. I also write technical reports and submit new project proposals, and I am helping other members of staff with other projects that they are managing. Sometimes, I also have the chance to do some field laboratory work.
My research training set me up to… be very versatile in many different roles and to think outside the box, to have a wider overview of topics, not only on the scientific/research side but also on the business development area. Research taught me how to find a solution using the tools I have available, but also to think of innovative ideas that can improve and maximize the results.
Left academia after After 10 years of postdoctoral work
What’s your background?
Cellular and Molecular Biology
Why did you move away from academia?
I had a fantastic experience in academia; however, it was not as stimulating for me. In my current role, I can still do research, go to conferences, but also work as project manager and learn about business development.
Is there anything you miss about academia?
Academia was a more laid-back, relaxed workplace, and I had much less pressure from the managers. Sometimes I do miss that, however, working under pressure and being able to make important decisions on my own gives me enthusiasm and motivation. I also feel more satisfied when I make a decision that is beneficial for the whole company and not only for my team.
How did you get this job? Did you face any challenges when considering a move away from academia or applying for the role?
I always wanted to work in marine biology and/or environmental science, so I found the company on LinkedIn, and I sent them my CV, giving myself a chance. The biggest challenges I faced were starting again on a completely new topic and being the coordinator of such a big, international project.
What motivated you to/why did you choose the sector you transitioned into?
Since my youngest age, I wanted to find a job that allowed me to not only work in the lab but also do field laboratory work.
Did you think you had the skills required for your current position before you started? Were you right?
I am not sure if I already had the skills required, but I truly believe that the different experiences that I developed in academia gave me a very good solid set of skills that I can use now.
How did your PhD prepare you for your current job? For example, what were the transferable skills that you developed during your PhD that are most relevant to your current job?
The PhD gave me many different skills, one of which is working in sterility conditions/aseptic techniques which I still currently use in the lab. Also, during my time in academia, I learned how to write scientific papers and reports, and to present data at international conferences, which is still applicable in this current position.
Did you have any preconceptions about your sector that proved to be wrong?
I was worried I was not skilled enough to be in a more leading position for a business, but in this company, I had the right support to grow and learn more about important decision making for the business from my very first day.
Can you describe a typical week in your job?
Usually, I have many interactive meetings with different partners and I coordinate the tasks performed in the lab by junior staff daily. Some days, I perform some lab tasks myself, and some other days I write reports, study plans, read literature, order equipment and materials needed in the lab and contact suppliers. I plan the lab work and strategically think about new methodologies that can be implemented.
What is the workplace culture like? Please include comments on work-life balance, flexibility, remote working?
In this workplace, there is a lot of diversity. Staff come from many different countries all around the world and there is a very multicultural set-up. Also, there are colleagues from different departments with a large variety of skills, who are happily interconnected or share skills in the different projects they are involved in. This gives the possibility to embrace new roles, to find what suits you best and so, to find the perfect work-life balance you are looking for.
Do people with a PhD frequently get hired in the company/sector?
What are your favourite parts of your job?
No day is ever the same, it is always challenging and stimulating.
It makes me feel good to be trusted in my decisions and choices, as this gives me confidence.
I continuously interact with different members of staff from different departments and with various skills, and it is always time to learn something new from others or for your skills to be helpful to someone else.
What are your reflections on your career path?
I am finally doing something I love and that gives me confidence, something that allows me to use my existing skills but also get new ones.
Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?
Never be afraid to start from a fresh, new topic. Doing this, over the years, you will build a strong knowledge and a range of technical skills that will give you the flexibility to take over new roles and responsibilities.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when exploring a transition?
To believe more in myself.
Can you recommend any relevant resources, organisations or events that might help somebody new to the sector find out more about it?
The internet and social media are always very good tools to use to find job posts, organisations and events. Having an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn to follow groups, companies, and recruiters, is also very helpful.
AquaBioTech Group is an international consulting company strategically located in the centre of the Mediterranean on the island of Malta, although operating globally with clients and projects in over fifty-five countries.
Primarily involved in aquaculture, fisheries and other marine/oceanographic projects, AquaBioTech Group seeks to offer a complete and holistic service to its clients. The experts working at AquaBioTech Group are all considered specialists in their relevant area of work and the company has sought to create a multi-national team of over one hundred (100) in-house experts from more than twenty-five countries that have a variety of backgrounds and experiences bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to any assignment that is undertaken.
The company’s principal areas of activities include:
• Consultancy on aquaculture, fisheries and related aquatic environmental issues;
• Design, Engineering, Construction and commissioning of aquaculture and fisheries infrastructures, and aquatic research facilities and laboratories;
• Contracted research (ABT Innovia) for global fisheries and aquaculture and companies in the field of fish biology research, fish nutrition, fish health, etc.;
• Marine and aquatic surveys and impact assessments relating to all areas of hydrographic surveying, water quality, benthic ecology sampling and mapping, as well as sediment monitoring and analysis.
Internship Programs: https://aquabt.com/jobs-2/training-placement/