'A day in the life of Helen' - Senior Research Scientist24 Jul 2020
How often do you find yourself wondering about the bright minds that make up some of your favourite brands and companies? We do a lot! Albumedix is more than a business, it’s a family, and we think we’ve got some of the best minds around in our home. The ‘A day in the life series’ will continue to walk you through our versatile and valued departments one by one, who knows… you may even want to join our team one day!
With that being said – meet Helen Rawsthorne. Helen is a Senior Research Scientist within Albumedix and a truly brilliant example of our many bright minds. Presently in her 7th year working for the company, the following interview will take you through Helen's background, her role within Albumedix and give you a sneak preview into what our Technical Group get up to in a typical day.
Hi Helen, thanks so much for taking the time to chat today. I was hoping we could start with some questions about yourself and your background? Perhaps you could walk us through what and where you’ve studied?
Hello! My background is in microbiology/molecular biology. Firstly, I got my Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. After finishing my degree, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, so I decided to do something I enjoyed! I went to the University of Leeds and got a Master’s in food science. During this time, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in research and went on to get my PhD in molecular biology at the IFR in Norwich. I was then fortunate to get a post-doctoral position at the University of California in Davis, so I moved to America. I was over there for about 12 years before deciding to come back to England. That’s when I got the job here in Albumedix in the Molecular Biology department.
That’s all amazing! Following on from you sharing your experiences prior to your role here, could you share some insight into your career path through Albumedix? Where did it all begin for you?
Sure. I started at Albumedix on a temporary contract for maternity leave cover in the molecular biology department. The work was lots of cloning and screening of yeast for expression of albumin, albumin variants and albumin fusions. My contract was extended a couple of times, so I was able to stay on with the company for almost 2 years! A permanent position became available about a year later and I was lucky enough to be appointed, then I have been here ever since. In the permanent role, I was heavily involved in the generation of the Veltis variants for increasing the half-life of albumin. As part of that work I began to screen the albumin variants in a mammalian cell based recycling assay. From there, I began to look more closely at the role of albumin in cell culture and my role evolved to where it is now, focusing on the use of albumin in the cell therapy area.
Sounds like your role has evolved quite a lot over the years, in your opinion, has the development of your role has coincided with the evolution of the cell and gene therapy industry as a whole?
Yes, I believe that my role has been able to develop and grow due to the advancements made in the cell and gene therapy industry. There is fantastic research being performed in the cell and gene therapy industry and truly transformative drugs are being developed. It has been a steep learning curve but very interesting and enjoyable. It is amazing to see the numerous ways in which albumin can be of benefit to these emerging therapies.
I bet! Speaking of your current role, could you tell me what a typical day at work entails for you?
I normally start the day with a coffee and check my emails and try to make a plan for the day, although the day generally doesn’t stick to that plan! We go over what needs to be done with the cells that day, we have a large whiteboard in our office divided up into days so we can keep track of what cells need passing, which flasks need media changing etc. When that is sorted out, I will generally go into the lab and make a start on the lab work. I will usually have a meeting that I will need to go to at some point during the day. I also do a lot of reading to keep up with the advances in the cell therapy area.
Given the scope of your work, could you tell me about any internal resources you’ve put in place within Albumedix to make sure you’re able to develop the data you need, and/or support customers?
The whole team! Our most recent recruit, Billie, has done some invaluable work in the cell lab which enables us to progress our work in the cell therapy area. We have recently acquired new equipment for the cell lab, a flow cytometer, fluorescent microscope, cell counter. I am very excited by all the new equipment and can’t wait to get into the lab and play with it all! It will certainly enable us to progress our research and support our customer’s more.
As you’ve mentioned customers there, could you explain to me exactly how you and the other members of the technical team work with customers?
My involvement with customers is usually when they are interested in using our albumin or they have an issue they need support with. I am usually involved in the calls with customers to learn about their cell culture needs and how albumin can be of benefit. I can offer advice on the call and do additional research afterwards to learn how albumin can be of help. I’m also involved in the customers troubleshooting when they are using our albumin with their cells. We can go over data together and discuss what tweaks and changes can be performed to get their optimal results.
Now we’ve heard about how you collaborate externally with customers, what about internally? Would you describe your role as collaborative with others in your department or cross functionally with other departments within Albumedix?
I am part of the Technical Group at Albumedix, there are very differing roles within the Tech Group but we all work together as a team. Everyone is willing to step in and help out when needed. I also interact a lot with colleagues from Business Development when working with customers so yes, I’d say it is collaborative.
As your role has evolved over this past 7 years, have you had any unique training or development opportunities within Albumedix?
Yes. I was very fortunate to be able to go to Barcelona in Oct 2019 to have a 1:1 training course at the Banc de Sang i Teixits to learn about the growth and cryopreservation of mesenchymal stem cells. It was a wonderful opportunity and I learnt a lot.
As a final word, what advice would you give to someone that’s looking to pursue a career in your line of work?
Go for it, I love being in the lab and developing new skills and techniques!