Joanna went to CN-Bio Innovations in Cambridge for her PIPS placement, a bioengineering company that specialises in developing single and multi-organ microphysiological systems and innovative lab technologies. They interact with many different pharma and biotech companies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of preclinical drug testing with clinically translatable systems.
The featured image is the logo of CN-Bio Innovations.
What did you do?
I worked with the research and development team to try and introduce and integrate immune cells into their established organ on chip systems. A couple of previous preliminary experiments had been done, but my main role was to get this project up and running and generate a core dataset to understand how it can be introduced into other systems. I also participated in team meetings, journal clubs, Toastmaster and wrote a research proposal for the CEO to outline the plan for the project and future applications of my findings.
What made you want to do that particular placement?
I was keen to explore what research outside of academia looked like and see first-hand how a relatively small biotech company worked. The research that they are doing was also very different from anything I had done before and offered me the opportunity to apply my immunology background in a very different scenario – with a more application-based outlook.
How did you go about finding and planning your PIPS?
I did quite a lot of searching for biotech companies around areas where I had friends and family so I could have a chance to live in a different location for 3 months. Through family and friends links I heard about CN-Bio and emailed them to introduce myself. I then had quite an informal phone conversation/interview to find out more about the company and talk about what a placement might look like. It kind of just went from there with just a few more emails to finalise details and agree dates (~6months from the initial phone call).
What have you gained from doing your PIPS?
I have really appreciated being able to talk to so many of the different employees from different areas of the company (CEO and management, engineers, marketing, production and R&D) to learn about all the different roles and how they have come to be working for CN-Bio. I have gained confidence in my communication skills, presenting to different audiences and collaborating with many different people. It has also been good, but quite challenging, to be starting a new project from almost nothing and doing a lot of the initial proof of concept work, set-up, background research and problem solving.
How would you sum up your PIPS experience?
It has been a really good chance to try a very different area of research with very different end goals and targets compared with my PhD. I have learnt a lot about the workings of a company and really appreciated the healthy work life balance they encouraged.
What advice would you give to other PGRs about PIPS?
Start looking early and be willing to try something out of your comfort zone/completely new. Use any connections that you may have from friends and family to help you find your placements. Talk to as many people as you can wherever you are and find out about their career path/what they do.