Through participation as an associate partner of the CORE Innovative Training Network, in June 2019, TeraCrystal hosted three Early Stage Researchers: Giuseppe Belletti, Jan-Joris Devogelaer, and Aliou Mbodji.
As an industrial partner of CORE, who specialise in research and solid-state crystallisation of pharmaceuticals, it was our duty and great pleasure to introduce Aliou, Giuseppe, and Jan-Joris to the various aspects of the workflow in TeraCrystal, and to provide hands-on tutorials in application-oriented research for the pharmaceutical industry.
Another important point for the secondment was to acquaint the ESRs with the work pace and mentality of a commercial research project, thus noting the differences between academia and industry. Topics such as productivity, efficiency, time restrictions, viability of a plan, and other challenges, were presented and thoroughly discussed. In a commercial project, the most important lesson is to accept that scientific curiosity will always be the last priority and will remain unsatisfied in most cases. On the other hand, the dynamics of such a project are complex and bring lots of excitement. Networking, working with collaborators, project management and problem solving under time pressure are all essential skills for a researcher, so the more opportunities to practise them, the better! Collaboration in a commercial project leads to encounters on multiple levels, involving multidisciplinary teams and demanding flexibility and openness, but all of this hard work reaps an important reward: the knowledge that your efforts make a key contribution to the production of better medicines for the benefit of patients.
For TeraCrystal’s team, the visit of Aliou, Giuseppe and Jan-Joris was not only very pleasant and refreshing – despite the extremely hot weather we had in June – but also an example of how useful the interplay between industry and academia can be. We explored how elements of the workflow could be used for new purposes (i.e. deracemization using temperature cycling) and eventually lead to potential new services. We also used one of our internal research projects as a case study for the prediction algorithm developed by Jan-Joris, and this already shows a successful experimental hit that we will further exploit together.
In summary, working in industry is usually quite different from academia, so it is good to change your perspective, widen your horizons, and get a taste of it. Moreover, I hope that the hard and soft skills learned in our lab will help Aliou, Giuseppe and Jan-Joris to choose and pursue their individual careers in academia or industry. For now, I wish them good luck with writing their theses and I look forward to congratulating them in the near future after their successful PhD defences!
Mihaela is one of the co-founders of TeraCrystal, managing the scientific, research and technological operations. She is a successful scientist and entrepreneur, with 20 years of experience in solid state chemistry, accumulated from both academic and industry working environment. Having gained a PhD in Solid-State from “Babes-Bolyai” University of Cluj, she moved forward to take up a postdoctoral fellowship in Crystallography at University of Amsterdam. Mihaela started her professional career at Avantium BV, The Netherlands, pioneer in the field of crystallization and polymorphism. She was in charge of leading the Pharma Team, being responsible for key commercial solid-state programs for pharmaceutical industry leaders. Prior TeraCrystal, Mihaela, in her capacity as Director of EU program HT-Pharma built the entire crystallization team and integrated new state of the art facility into an effective work-flow, at INCDTIM-Cluj Napoca, During her career, she has published patents and articles in various professional journals and has made numerous presentations at seminars and conferences.