Day trip to Leica Research Laboratories, 29-30th Jan, 2014, 9:00-12:30

Final year of PhD is crucial, not only because you have just a few months to finish experiments and write your thesis but importantly it is about time that you look out for potential employers, be it in academia or industry. While meeting prospective supervisors in academia is slightly less challenging, given that you are within the academic realms already, the chances of meeting with an R&D manager or recruiter are very slim!

Well, not anymore…!! In order to fill in this gap the postgraduate research community at ICM (prICM) has been organising industrial visits for students and postdocs, who are either unsure or confident about their place in an industrial R&D laboratory. Our first visit was to Covance, a local contract research organisation in Alnwick. This time it was Leica Biosystems in Newcastle.
Leica Biosystems is in fact one of the very first spin-out companies from Newcastle University. Its founder Professor CHW Horne, a pathologist based at Newcastle University, not only identified the need for antibodies which were designed specifically for using with formalin fixed paraffin embedded tissues, but in fact took this vision forward into finding Novocastra Laboratories Ltd in 1990, to provide a reliable solution. Novocastra range continued to expand and in 2007, along with Vision BioSystems, it formed the Biosystems Division of Leica Microsystems. Today Leica Biosystems is a world leader in histopathology solutions and automation especially in cancer diagnostics.

Not surprising then, we had a few good reasons to pick Leica; first of all its connection with the university meant that it is a good inspiration for the young entrepreneurs amongst us, also importantly unlike our previous visit, Leica Biosystems Newcastle Ltd, was different since its products are aimed for clinicians and researchers and not patients. This, we hoped, would give us a broader sense of understanding of the different work ethos within different industries.

The tour began with an informative background about Leica, its growth over the years and finally, crucially, GMP and GLP in a nutshell! Having introduced the plot, we were now in the scene to get an insight into how each sub-division is managed, the laboratories and also the daily activities that each role demanded. The highlight of the tour came from one of the R&D managers, who gave us a detailed explanation of the workflow with the example of an incoming project, following it through to completion. This in fact was an eye opener for many as it showed us the diverse range of responsibilities one may expect working as an industrial R&D scientist. This was welcoming, especially to the ones amongst us, who like being challenged and perhaps are less keen on a routine work schedule. As this informative morning drew to a close, we met with some of the existing members of the teams and not surprisingly by this time had some of us converted from academia to industry!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at Leica who welcomed us to their site and offered to show how it can be like working in a bioscience industry!

Finally no trip would be a success without its participants. So here’s what some of them had to say;

I thought it was great, the whole trip was geared towards exactly the type of information I wanted to find out. I think more trips would be fantastic!

Once we went to the R&D side I got really excited as it sounded exactly what I would like to do. There seemed lots of exciting projects and opportunities available!

It was really nice to get an overview of the whole business and where the different departments fit in. I think it’s really important to look at different companies to get an idea of whether you would want to work there before applying for jobs…!

I liked the fact we were able to gain face to face contact with the people (line managers) you would be working for. Overall I think this has been a success and this completely justifies the need for prICM.

I left feeling much more confident about a Career in industry and feel that I know much more now to make an informed decision about my future. We’ve had talks from people before but I think seeing it and having a one on one interaction was far more beneficial. Especially having never really been in industry or knowing anyone that is…!

When I’ve heard people talking about life in industry, they always stress how much paperwork it is, and I automatically made the assumption that industry jobs would be boring. At the Leica visit, I thought they made a really good job of putting it into context and justifying it – doesn’t seem boring at all now!

The visit to Leica was very well organised and a worthwhile trip.  Gave me a good insight into the types of jobs available in industry.

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Visit on 29th Jan 2014

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Visit on 30th Jan 2014

Leica Biosystems Newcastle Ltd, Balliol Business Park West, Newcastle upon Tyne NE12 8EW
-Organised by prICM