Wondering how to start the transition into industry after completing your PhD? Seeking more information from people that are pursuing the same career path?

Start by checking out our interview with Pino Bordignon, who works as a scientist in a start-up based in Lausanne.

Katia Monsorno and Jun Huang, on behalf of BSNL

Pino Bordignon, Application Development Scientist, Lunaphore

Pino was born and raised in Italy. He originally moved to Lausanne to start his PhD in cancer and immunology at the University of Lausanne (UNIL). He is currently an application development scientist at Lunaphore, a start-up focusing on the development of a high-throughput automated staining system.

  • What was your experience concerning the transition into industry? Is your job related to what you have done during your PhD?

At Lunaphore, my job includes tasks that are partially overlapping with what I was doing in academia. For example, I am using many of the techniques that I had set up and used during my PhD. For sure, many other things are also quite different, as before my main focus was related to the discovery of new mechanisms involved in cancer biology, while now in Lunaphore the focus is rather directed to apply existing knowledge for the development of applications for the academic and clinical world. In general, in industry the research process is more targeted compared to academia; the duration of the projects is usually shorter. Deadlines are also much denser, and this helps to reach an overall high efficiency in the development process. My PhD training does help me a lot in this context, as it allowed me to gain all the relevant knowledge, concerning e.g. experimental design and project management.

  • Which are the personal skills that are mostly needed to undergo a successful transition into industry?

One of the most important skill a person should have is organization. There should always be clear goals and a clear focus on which is the target of that particular experiment or project. Presentation skills are also very important, as this is essential to facilitate the collaboration with other teams.

  • What is your typical day at work as an application development scientist?

My main task at Lunaphore is to develop and optimize as many applications as possible for Lunaphore products. I spend most of my day in the lab, planning and running experiments with our products and new prototypes, and analyzing data and images generated by our devices. Other than that, an important part of my time is dedicated to the interactions with the software and hardware development teams, with the aim to further optimize our products.

  • What is the composition of the staff in R&D team in terms of their level of education, nationality and language spoken?

Lunaphore is a very international team with around 40 employees, mainly from EU countries. Therefore, 90% of the meetings are held in English. Nevertheless, most of the staff speaks French, and I also speak French with them during informal occasions, such as at lunch and during coffee breaks. This allows me to have a better communication and relationship with my colleagues. In the R&D team, around 50% have obtained a PhD before joining Lunaphore.

  • How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect Lunaphore as a company?

We are lucky that Lunaphore was less affected compared to other companies or social realities. We had new people that were hired even during the pandemic, which was a good sign. Within the company, of course the working schedule was somehow affected; we had to introduce working shifts as it was for most of the academic institutions. However, this was quite manageable, and we never completely stopped our activities.

  • Which advice would you give to life sciences PhDs and postdocs that are willing to look for opportunities in industry?

Finding a job in industry is really time-consuming. Therefore, if you intend to start a transition into industry, you need to start as early as possible. Try to collect more related information in advance. If you are busy running experiments for your current project, exploit the weekends to write and send out your applications, do not just postpone it to more favorable times. There are no infinite possibilities matching your knowledge and skills, therefore the earlier you start looking, the more chances you will have to find a position suited for you. In my case, I have been really lucky to find this position 3 months before the end of my academic contract and gladly I applied although I was still busy with experiments and the revision of my article.  As a last piece of advice, I would always suggest being “brave” while searching for job opportunities. Use the time you have in a constructive way, expand your skill set and become a good fit for your dream job!

We thank Pino for agreeing to be interviewed by us. We hope it has been helpful for many of you!

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