Dr Maren Butz is a Senior Scientist in the Fluidic Analytics team. Her work contributes to product design improvements and developing new application notes.
We spoke to her about a typical day in the lab, performance testing, protein evolution and teamwork.
So Maren, how did it all begin – tell us about your time at university?
I first studied Biochemistry at ETH Zurich, a specialist STEM university. I specialized into molecular biology at that stage.
After this I went on to complete my PhD, also at ETH, in protein engineering. Here we were investigating the evolution of proteins – what is the starting point for proteins to evolve from? How do different proteins function and how important is stability for protein evolution? From this basis we could have the potential to choose the best starting point to create and design new proteins in the future, and modify them for specific tasks.
That sounds like interesting work – where did you go from there?
After my PhD I moved to the UK and began a PostDoc placement at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Biochemistry. I was there for 3 years, looking at metalloproteins in one project, and microfluidics in another. We developed affinity determination assays using microfluidic droplets.
Then I moved to a PostDoc position with Astra Zeneca at their Macclesfield site. I was there for around 3 years, optimising a co-cultures assay for high-throughput screening.
And then you made the move to Fluidic Analytics?
Yes, when my project at Astra Zeneca ended I was looking for my next role and heard that Fluidic Analytics were hiring through some friends from my time at Zurich. I applied and interviewed, and now I’ve been here for almost a year.
How does life at a startup compare to academic or large company life?
It’s actually quite similar to academia in some ways – we have the same sort of open discussions amongst the team and the company that our research group at university used to.
The main difference is that in industry you all have the same key goals that you are all driving towards, rather than the separate projects you often find in the academic world. This is really nice because everybody is working together for the same aims.
As for company size, I prefer the smaller organization. Here we all know each other, you say Hi to everybody each morning and it feels more like one group than lots of separate teams.
It’s kind of the best of both worlds here.
What sort of tasks take up your typical day?
So at the moment a lot of my time is doing product performance tests. This means running samples and repeats on our instruments for performance evaluation and making calibration improvements.
I also spend time on applications – we will discuss new application ideas as a team, from things we’ve read, inspiration from the tests we have done, or discussion we have with academic collaborators. After we’ve chosen a specific topic as a group, one person will design and run the tests then analyse the data.
There is also writing up TRD’s – technical review documents. They’re like lab book notes, to store and report our results, communicate them around the team and the company. These help to change SOP’s, calibrations or highlight potential applications for the instruments.
Here is a typical day for Maren:
|08:30||Check emails, check plan for the day|
|09:00||Sample preparation for experiments|
|11:00||Start experiments – we separate projects but also help each other out across the team, so I might be working with one of the others if there’s an urgent piece of work to do.|
|13:00||Continue experiments and analyse primary data|
|15:00||Analysis of data, writing up report|
Decision on new experiment, literature, preparing protocol for next experiment.
Discuss results and aims for the next experiment with the rest of the team.
Thanks Maren – it’s great to get an insight into life in the lab at a commercial startup.
To learn more about life and work at Fluidic Analytics, find out about our culture and ethos here or check our events calendar here to speak to us in person at upcoming conferences and events. Check out our current vacancies here to see if you could join the team.