2018 NPIF Skills School – Fermentation and Downstream Processing Masterclass from a student’s perspective

2018 NPIF Skills School – Fermentation and Downstream Processing Masterclass from a student’s perspective

On 4th and 5th June, the BBSRC EASTBIO DTP and the BBSRC IBioIC CTP in collaboration with 5 industry facilities delivered the 2018 NPIF Skills School “Broadening Horizons: Cultivating an Innovative Mind” for PhD students and Postdocs in order to raise their awareness of valuable skillsets in various industrial environments, thus broadening their future career options outside academia.

Each masterclass counted with the collaboration of an IBioIC or EastBio student to help organise the event, and I was the lucky one assigned to the Fermentation and Downstream Processing Masterclass, which was centred around the IBioIC Flexible Downstream Bioprocessing Centre (FlexBio), located in Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. There, the participants (including myself) could see first-hand how a bioprocess is run at a pilot plant scale with the technical complications and requirements that this involves.

Before the event took place, I had the chance to meet the FlexBio technical experts Dr. Neil Renault and Dr. Loris Fossier Marchan and together tailor the activity for the Skills School practical session. This was an exciting opportunity for me to visit the facility in advance and have a look at all the equipment!

During the Fermentation and Downstream Processing Masterclass, the participants also received the professional perspective of different industry guests such as Dr. Alison Arnold (Ingenza Ltd.) and Dr. Jane White (Horizon Proteins) and heard about different projects they are involved in and the type of skills that the biotech industry is after. I personally found the talks very interesting and engaging: it was good to see the importance of thinking of a process as a whole, taking both upstream and downstream into account, which allows us to identify weaknesses and strengths in our design and to try to convert waste materials into by-products, as Dr. Jane White pointed out! Similarly, Dr Alison Arnold stressed out the importance of having an eclectic set of skills to be able to work in a fermentation group, giving some real examples of her team’s daily work.

The general response of the participants was very positive due to the benefits of getting exposed to an industrial environment and the great networking opportunity of the event. In my personal experience, I enjoyed helping prepare the event and still be able to receive the training. I especially liked speaking to the industry guests and the FlexBio technical experts and listen to their long-term experience and knowledge.
Joan Cortada García, IBioIC CTP Student Cohort 4