A Conversation with our Scientists
For the first instalment in our Careers at CatSci series, we sat down with Andrew Roberts and Nadia Fleary-Roberts to talk about their career in chemistry and pharmaceutical development, a typical day in the life of CatSci team, and why they love being part of such a dynamic and diverse team. Read on to discover what it is like to be part of the scientific team at CatSci.
Andrew Roberts, Senior Scientist, has been a part of the CatSci team for just over two years. He graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a BSc in Chemistry, before starting his career at Contract Chemicals Ltd in Liverpool. After nearly 6 years at Contract Chemicals, Andrew joined CatSci as a Research Scientist and was recently promoted this year to a Senior Scientist.
Nadia Fleary-Roberts, Senior Scientist, has been at CatSci for over four years. She first graduated from the University of Strathclyde with an MSc in Chemistry, before embarking on her PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Manchester. Nadia then spent a few years as a post-doctoral researcher before joining CatSci as a Senior Scientist.
Describe a typical day in your role
Andrew: I usually head straight into the lab at the start of the day. I plan and prepare for my experimental the day before as I want to hit the ground running and have plenty of time in the day for anything unexpected that comes my way.
Nadia: The first thing I do when I get into work is check my e-mails; I always have a list of to-dos for the day, that way I can assess which tasks need to be completed first. I spend approximately half of my time in the laboratory and the other half in the office at my desk, though this can vary depending on what stage of the project I may be working on or if something needs to be prioritised. When I’m in the office, I may be working on reports, writing up experiments or preparing for customer updates. Lab work, on the other hand can range from route scouting to scaling up a developed reaction.
What is the working environment at CatSci like?
Andrew: The environment is friendly but also focused. The team are quite close on a personal level, and management are approachable and engage with every employee. We are here to do the best job we possibly can and having a close relationship with colleagues is a big help in achieving that.
Nadia: The working environment here at CatSci is key to its success; it is a relaxed and friendly environment but with a focussed atmosphere, which is very conducive to work. There is the ability to work flexibly, which is a bonus, and it means I can fit my work around my life; I really think this is something all the employees here at CatSci value and appreciate.
What element of your work do you enjoy most?
Andrew: I enjoy the satisfaction when a simplified and optimised process works as predicted. Alternatively, I also enjoy stepping back and appreciating an elegant practical solution to an experimental problem.
Nadia: I really like taking a process that hasn’t been developed and turning it into something that we can hand back to our customers. The finished process is often much better, and more importantly, perfect-for-purpose. Some processes are completely unrecognisable from when we first started, and it is very satisfying knowing that you had a hand in it.
When did you realise you wanted a career in chemistry and what steps did you take to get there?
Andrew: I have always been technically minded from a young age. As such, my career choices were perhaps less directed with chemistry in mind per se, but my broad technical interests have led me into a role with engineering, physics and chemistry considerations.
Nadia: I hadn’t planned on being working in chemistry, but I always wanted to do something scientific, so after my A-levels I chose a course that reflected this.
What are your career aspirations?
Andrew: I would like to build on both existing process development skills, as well as utilisation and development of people skills in a leadership role.
Nadia: I would like to continue what I am doing and expand on what I’ve learnt, especially in regard to process development. I would also like to work more within the area of crystallisation as this is a key part of what we do. Earlier this year I went on secondment within the analytical department. A lot of what we do must be examined analytically, so I wanted to see what it was like to deliver projects from this standpoint.
What are some of your career highlights or your most proud moment to date?
Andrew: I was the Lead Chemist on a process which went on to win an award for innovation in industry; it was hugely satisfying to be part of a ground-breaking team that was acknowledged externally.
Nadia: I was really happy to get positive feedback from a customer on one of the first projects I had worked on shortly after joining CatSci. I really feel connected to the work we do, and it’s fantastic when customers recognise the great work that our team carries out.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Andrew: Don’t be afraid to offer your opinion. Your viewpoint is more impactful than you might expect.
Nadia: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially when learning something new. You’re probably not the only one that has these queries.
CatSci is celebrating its 10th birthday. What do you think is in store for CatSci in the next 10 years?
Andrew: Further remarkable growth, not just in personnel but in the diversity of the portfolio.
Nadia: I expect we will continue our current impressive trajectory, which would mean a fast-growing team and even greater capabilities, enabling us to do more and better for our customers.
Are you looking for a role that will enable you to apply your chemistry knowledge? Check out our current job vacancies here.
Take a look at the rest of our Careers at CatSci series here.