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Current position: Laboratory and Greenhouse Technician, Crop Science, La Dargoire
Joined Bayer in: 2002
"There is a real sense of pride when you see a new product go on the market and know that you were one of the first people to handle it, that you worked on the molecule and saw it grow..."
Why did you go into R&D?
When I joined Bayer after graduating with an agronomy degree in bioengineering, I was mainly interested in the practical side of the experimental work. I had done a technical course, I was looking for a manual job and I wanted to work on plants, so crop protection seemed a likely choice. And it naturally led me to Bayer, one of the few companies to combine laboratory and greenhouse work.
How does innovation come into your line of work?
I screen molecules. I'm involved right at the beginning of the selection and detection phase, where we nevertheless have to be as close as possible to what would be useful, and therefore marketable, in 10 years. To see that far into the future, we need guidance from Marketing. After that, it's up to us to design tests with new pathogens, based on the scientific literature, and define new protocols with new techniques.
What do you think has changed the most?
The resources devoted to user safety and protection have been phenomenal. Fifteen years ago, we confined ourselves to the minimum: lab coat, mask, gloves, etc. But today, we have an automated robot that ensures 100% user safety. It spares us the tasks with no added value and pushes up the processing rate by screening thousands of molecules per year.
What does a typical day consist of?
Everyone has their own specialized field in the laboratory. My colleague is helping to develop robotic tools, while I focus on developing new methodologies with fungi and plants. We each switch between the routine screening work, using the same operating method, and our specialized field: in my case, setting up these new protocols. We've found the perfect balance!
You're involved very early in the chain. How do you stay motivated?
There is a real sense of pride when you see a new product go on the market and know that you were one of the first people to work on the molecule, that you saw it grow... That's when you see the purpose behind our work. Even more so when the farmers are happy with it. Today we manage to produce effective solutions with doses that are 10 times smaller than 20 years ago, and we're still making progress.
So what qualities does it take to work in R&D?
Curiosity is the watchword. Also the ability to regularly challenge what you do by nurturing a critical, scientific mind. It's a complex job, where it takes a long time to get results. You also have to believe in what you're doing and not get disheartened or see failure as a waste of time. The important thing in research is to be able to bounce back and make a fresh start!