Regenerative Medicine Cluster Initiative in BC

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Careers Column

Welcome to the BCRGEGMED Blog’s Quarterly Career Column! Here we will feature career profiles with scientific professionals in British Columbia.

In this issue, we interviewed Dr. Vincenzo Macri, Senior Scientist, Myogenic Group, STEMCELL Technologies.

Describe a typical day in your position? What are your day-to-day activities like?

Working in Research and Development is great because every day can be different. My role as a Senior Scientist and Team Lead of the Myogenic Group involves short and long-term planning of product development, working with a talented team of researchers, reviewing and presenting data, keeping up to date on current research, and collaborating cross-functionally with highly skilled groups such as Business Development, Sales, Quality Control, Process Development, Product Management and Marketing and Manufacturing. Our team goal is to make innovative, high-quality products to help scientists in the myogenic research community.

How did you arrive at your current position?

During my Post Doctoral Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School I developed expertise in genetics, stem cell and cardiomyocyte biology. As I neared the end of my Post Doctoral work, I had published, received funding, and presented at scientific conferences and was looking for new opportunities both in academia and industry. It was during an online job search that I saw a posting for a Scientist position in Cardiac Stem Cell Biology at STEMCELL Technologies. Being from Vancouver, I was familiar with STEMCELL Technologies and how their products help advance scientific research. As I read the job description, I became very excited as my education, training, and career interests all matched very well and submitted my application online soon after. I was contacted for interviews and was very happy to be selected for the position.

What are the working hours like? Are they mostly predictable?

My working hours are mostly from 9am to 5pm. There are occasions where my work can be outside these hours but for the most part, they are predictable.

How often do you travel for your job? Do you get to attend any conferences?

I usually travel 2-3 times a year for conferences. I usually attend cardiac specific conferences for example Keystone and American Heart Association (AHA) and have attended the International Society of Stem Cell Research (ISSCR).

What skill set or knowledge has been most helpful (or you wish you had) for your current position coming out of graduate training (Grad school or post-doc)?

The knowledge I have acquired throughout my academic training (Grad school and Post-doc) has all been helpful for my current position. In Grad school, I gained deep knowledge of cardiac ion channel biology and electrophysiology and during my Post-doc gained skills in human genetics, cardiac development and stem cell biology. Along the way I developed good laboratory, communication, and leadership skills. Taken together, both the knowledge and skills have been very helpful for my current position.

Do you work largely alone or as part of a team?

My activities require both independent and team work. An example of independent work would be reading research articles, analyzing data, writing abstracts. An example of team work at STEMCELL would be collaborating with Process Development to manufacture products.

How similar or different is your working environment now to that of academia/grad school? (they do not have to answer if they are in academia).

I think my working environment is similar to academia, however, our end goals are different. As an industry scientist, the skills and knowledge acquired in academia are used all the time, however, instead of producing novel, quality research papers, we produce innovative, quality products. I have found the transition to industry from academia to be smooth because of the overlap and that both require the process of discovery.

Do you get to publish?

We typically publish abstracts for scientific meetings and not full article manuscripts. In my case, I have published abstracts for ISSCR and AHA meetings.

What advice would you give to trainees who are interested in working in your field or in a similar position?

My advice would be to work on research projects that excite and motivate you. It’s important to have enthusiasm for your work and dedication to develop both lab skills and subject knowledge expertise. The ability to communicate your research and ideas as a clear story is also important. Taken together, I believe the above qualities will help trainees be better prepared for a successful transition into an R&D industry position.

Interview conducted by Sanam Shafaat Talab