Our Meet the Fellow series is almost coming to a close, as we have now met 14 out of 15 Fellows. Today we hear from Josi Buerger based at Biosyntia. Find her on twitter at @josi_bee.
What does your lab do? What is a brief description of the project you work on? What is your background in science (and otherwise)? Why are you motivated to work on this topic? What do you hope to accomplish during your PhD?
To be perfectly honest, the only reason I enrolled for Molecular Biosciences at my university was because I had good marks in Biology at school… In hindsight, this wasn’t due to any inherent talent on my side, but because I had a fantastic teacher.
This was problematic once I started my undergraduate studies. I had trouble engaging with topics outside of their practical context. In fact, in my second year, I switched to a joint Philosophy and Biology degree and was convinced that research was not for me. Not until honours classes did I re-discover my interest in science, as teaching at that level was centered on critical thinking that encouraged discussion.
I focused on taking courses on applied biotechnology, as I realised I enjoyed engineering and problem solving. I also learnt that I appreciate lab work, despite all its frustrations. I focused my Masters on metabolic engineering and feel incredibly lucky to have my PhD based in a dynamic start-up that builds biosustainable solutions.
It hasn’t been that long since we were interviewing for PhDs; what are some pointers you would give to students looking for a PhD to do during their undergraduate or Master’s?
I have had supervisors that think I am a promising young student with a bright career ahead of me, and I have had supervisors who think I am a blundering idiot with peas for brains. I reckon both opinions are correct in some ways and it highlights how important it is to find a PhD supervisor that you feel comfortable with. There are moments where you mess up or lose track of your project. Feeling comfortable talking to your supervisor is so important.
I also found that asking supervisors about what kind of negative experiences they have had with PhD students really helps to paint a picture of their lab.
What are your short-term and long-term career goals (aka, what do you want to be “when you grow up” 😉 )?
When I grow up? On a daily basis, I oscillate between staying in industry, becoming the most successful academic in synthetic biology,
becoming a patent lawyer, working for the EU, or spending my life getting as many Masters degrees as I can.
Short-term goals are focused on learning Danish and convincing my flatmates that we really do need a dog.
What do you like to do for fun (outside of science, of course)?