Career case studies of former Bath research staff and doctoral students - find out what they're doing now and how they're using the skills from research.
Adel Toth -Analytical Scientist at Adaptimmune
What do you do day-to-day in your current role?
I’m an analytical scientist at Adaptimmune, an Oxfordshire-based company that develops novel immunotherapies against cancer using genetically modified T-cells. The Analytical team is responsible for the design, optimisation and continuous improvement of phenotypical and functional immunological assays used for the characterisation of T-cell products (both by the company and our CMOs).
I spend about 50% of my time conducting laboratory experiments, 40% analysing data, recording results and writing study plans/reports, and about 10% participating in meetings and discussions.
Give a brief overview of your career history to date, and any steps you feel were important to you
I studied molecular biology and completed a PhD in immunology at the University of Szeged - my thesis focused on the investigation of immune response against human pathogen Candida species. During these years I had the opportunity to develop expertise in a variety of immunological methods, and working in a very dynamic laboratory taught me the importance of teamwork and prepared me to manage challenging research projects in a fast-paced environment.
After finishing my PhD and spending one more year in the same laboratory as a postdoc, I applied for a research associate position at the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at University of Bath. The project was focusing on the mechanistic background of autoimmune arthritis, I was working with clinical samples from the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases. Apart from further strengthening my technical expertise, this position was important because it introduced me to the concept of Good Clinical and Good Laboratory Practice. As it was an industrially funded, collaborative project, I also had the opportunity to get some insight into company culture and dynamics.
How do you use the skills from your doctoral/postdoctoral experience in your current role?
Apart from technical expertise and extensive hands-on laboratory experience, I believe the most important skill I’ve developed while working in academia is how to critically evaluate scientific data (understanding what the results of an experiment mean and being able to use that information to identify the next step). Coupled with good problem-solving ability, this is a very useful skill to have in a highly results-oriented industrial environment. Scientific communication skills are also essential, as I need to prepare study plans, reports and presentations on a regular basis. Finally, being able to think independently and creatively helps a lot when I need to design experiments or find new solutions to a problem.
What advice would you give to researchers interested in working in similar roles, and suggestions on where they could look for vacancies
Keep in mind that many companies value PhD/postdoctoral experience (because of the above mentioned reasons). However, the fast-paced, competitive environment of industry is very different from academia, and getting some insight into this culture (perhaps through collaboration or training) may be beneficial before applying for a job in industry. If this is not possible, talking to people who are or have worked in similar environments may be incredibly helpful.
It is also worth mentioning that applying for a specific position might be worthwhile even if it isn’t exactly what you’ve been looking for – the company might have other openings that hadn’t been advertised, and if they see a valuable candidate, they might have something else to offer you.
Apart from company websites, the best place to look for vacancies is Linkedin in my opinion
(having an up-to-date profile might also be very helpful), and Indeed.co.uk is also very useful.
Careers Service Guide to biosciences and pharmaceuticals
Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry - useful for keeping up to date with industry, and they also have a dedicated careers website with case studies and advice on different roles
BioScienceCareers - another useful website with CV advice and lots of links to organisations and vacancy sites