Interview with an Intern

12 February 2019

We caught up with Rachel Hutchinson who, for 3 months at the end of 2018, was on a Professional Industry Placement for Students (PIPS) at Microgenetics as a Research Scientist.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I am a PhD student at the University of Bristol and I study African trypanosomes, which are single-celled disease-causing parasites. I spend most of my time in a molecular microbiology lab, but I also work with biting tsetse flies, do a little computer work, and run our lab’s twitter account.

Why did you choose Microgenetics for your placement?

I met Tammy [Hassel] at the PIPS conference, where PhD students get the chance to talk to industry representatives, and we started chatting about Microgenetics’ setup, products and future goals. I was drawn to the opportunity to ‘do a little bit of everything’: using my experience in PCR and molecular methods to troubleshoot in a R&D lab whilst learning a bit about marketing, legalities and requirements, business management and more.

What did you get up to while you were here?

It is impossible to list everything, but I have included details of my main projects below:

1. Exploring ways to improve SwiftDetect

  • Deconstructed the process to understand and optimise parameters, especially at the final PCR step.
  • Assessed current quantification and enumeration capabilities of SwiftDetect, highlighted future and existing challenges, and suggested alternative approaches.
  • Identified potential funding opportunities for applying SwiftDetect to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance and monitoring.

2. Marketing, Social Media & Website

  • Re-established Microgenetics twitter account which resulted in a 108,000% increase in tweet impressions and over 1,200 profile visits.
  • Set out social media brand guidelines to help maintain a cohesive Microgenetics personality.
  • Developed new content and articles for Microgenetics social media and website including infographics, articles, literature reviews and reports.
  • Created new content for SwiftDetect and SmartControl product pages, informed by thorough keyword analysis of successful competitor sites.
  • Drafted marketing flyers for SwiftDetect and SmartControl for use at Pharmig annual conference.

3. Regulation and Accreditation

  • Identified individual requirements for ISO 9001 accreditation.
  • Reviewed requirements, comparing against current quality management documents, policies and practices, to determine necessary changes and additional documents required to comply with ISO standard.

Day to day, I was involved in anything and everything happening at Microgenetics, from reviewing designs for the new purpose-built lab module to testing the limitations of the SmartControl hardware. I also attended the annual SfAM conference on AMR, represented Microgenetics at the UK AMR Diagnostic Collaborative Industry Forum, and won an international agar art competition.

Sounds like you packed a lot into 3 months! What was the most challenging part of the placement?

One of the processes we were trying to optimise refused to cooperate, and we had to break it down to each individual manipulation, consumable and reagent to identify what was going on. Although it was a bit of a headache, this helped reinforce my understanding of each step in the process and was gave me great satisfaction when we finally identified the problem.

And some of the best moments?

Winning the CreepyCultures agar art competition was a real buzz, and I had great fun designing more agar-images for Christmas!

In general, some of the best moments were just being with the Microgenetics team – the vibe in the office is fun, creative and everyone’s’ ideas are valued. I could not imagine a better working atmosphere.

What have you gained from your placement?

In addition to the wealth of new experiences and a completely new understanding of opportunities that lie outside academia; the mentoring, feedback and encouragement I received over the 3 months have been invaluable contributors to both my personal and professional development.

I’ve also gained some great friendships and will definitely be staying in touch!

Rachel Hutchinson’s internship was supported by a SWBio DTP Studentship, which is funded by the BBSRC.