“I am still helping with research, without being in a research environment”, Lionel Tcatchoff

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“I am still helping with research, without being in a research environment”, Lionel Tcatchoff

After working in academia for a number of years, Dr Lionel Tcatchoff now works as Global Technical Support Manager at Scientifica. Here’s why he decided to leave academia and his advice for anyone considering moving to an industry role. 

My journey in academia

I obtained a PhD in France, studying interactions between small soluble proteins and their partners, odorants and olfactory receptors. There, I used biochemistry approaches as well as basic calcium imaging techniques to study the structure and functions of those interactions. Following this I moved to Norway, and then Sweden, where I focused on imaging and cell biology techniques to study intracellular trafficking. I was first characterising some aspects of toxin retrograde transport, and then evaluating the replication modalities of Flaviviruses. After moving to England, I spent one year as a Lab Manager at Sussex University. 

Why I decided to leave academia

There are a variety of reasons why I decided to move from working in academia to working in industry. The main reason being that after more than a decade in a research environment and touching various fields of research, I realised that I didn’t have enough background on one specific topic to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a PI. It was scary when I realised that I would probably never be able to work as a PI as, when working in research, I couldn’t imagine what life outside the lab was like. I had no idea what roles existed, what they entailed and what skills I had that companies were looking for. 

What I am doing now

Since 2016, I have been providing Technical and Application support for Scientifica Advanced System users, a role where I developed in-depth knowledge of Scientifica products as well as understanding of end-user applications. Very recently I started a new challenge as Global Technical Support Manager at Scientifica. 

I really enjoy my work at Scientifica; I am still helping with research, without being in a research environment. My role is challenging and I am always learning, which in a sense is not that different from the world of academic research. I really enjoy talking to academics, discussing their research with them and helping to solve their problems. Working for Scientifica is also very rewarding as everyone is involved in steering the company towards a common goal. 

How industry is different to academia

Compared to working in academia, projects move faster here. I prefer this as every day is different. Another way that working in industry differs to academia is that you work with colleagues from a variety of backgrounds. In a lab, people have often come a similar route, whereas in industry or at least at Scientifica, there is a bigger variety of roles and people have different educational backgrounds and perspectives. This, for me, makes the work more interesting. 

I wish I had moved from academia to industry earlier, but this would have been more difficult, as the experience I gained while working in the lab helped me to get this role. I wouldn’t choose to return to working in a lab, mainly because it would involve a lot of time applying for funding rather than doing research. However, I know that what I learned at Scientifica in terms of project management would be of tremendous help if I were to start a new research project.

My advice

My advice for if you are unsure whether you want to stay working in academia is to ask yourself what your end goal is and is this possible? Will working in the lab enable you to achieve your goal? If it wont help you achieve your end goal, will you be willing to give the level of dedication required?

Could a job in industry offer you a better work-life balance or would you better enjoy the way of working in a lab? In many industry roles, once you leave work for the evening or weekend, you have left work. Whereas lab work tends to encroach more on your evenings and weekends; it can become your life. There can, however, be lots of freedom in lab work once you have technical ability – you can decide which way you want to take your projects and apply your own ideas.

If you decide that you want to make the move from working in academia, think about the skills that you could bring to a company. For example, the ability to problem-solve, broad technical knowledge, the ability to multi-task. Lab work gives you a lot of transferrable skills.

It can be difficult to understand what a job involves on a daily basis from the job title. If possible, talk to people in various roles and find out what they are doing. Ask them about their day-to-day activities and what they like or dislike, to see if it would suit you. The team at Scientifica are always willing to discuss their day-to-day roles and offer advice. 

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