Scott Gourlay

MSc Industrial Biotechnology

Scott has completed his MSc and is now working at Oxford Biotrans, a University of Oxford spin-out company.

"One of the main aims of the IBioIC masters course is to bridge the gap between academia and industry, and I definitely feel as though the course delivered.

Looking back at my time in academia, my decision to join the MSc cohort was one of the best decisions I have made to date. One aspect of particular interest was travelling to various institutions to meet experts in their respective fields, learning about cutting edge advances, which was definitely insightful. Another aspect of the course I thoroughly enjoyed was being presented with areas of industrial biotechnology which were identified by industry members as lacking expertise. I was introduced to areas of biotechnology I hadn’t been exposed to which are now daily occurrences in my line of work. Now in full time employment, I can really put into perspective the scope and variety of the masters course. I still believe that I would have never got my job in Oxford without my IBioIC placement, which of course I couldn’t have done without the IBioIC masters course. My placement really forced me to identify my weaknesses and by doing so I worked hard to improve on them. By the time I came to looking for work as a graduate, I found that I was fully prepared for interviews and the work that I was given.

I now work at a University of Oxford spin-out company, Oxford Biotrans. We specialise in the biosynthesis of high-value chemicals utilising specific enzyme technology. My role within the business is a research & development scientist dealing with areas such as fermentation, biotransformation, enzymology, mutagenesis etc. There are definitely flavours of all the courses the IBioIC course encompassed.

My hours are scheduled to my experiments, therefore I rarely work 9 to 5. It is very hard to describe a “typical day” as my workload is very dynamic. Duties can include setting up cell cultures, researching new techniques or analytical methods, setting up bioconversion reactions and investigating new mutations for the enzymes we use. I have been informed by others, but also personally feel, that working for a start-up company has and will continue to be a huge asset in my career. I have been exposed to techniques and practices that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do in larger businesses.

One of the projects I am working on currently is the bioconversion of valencene (orange scent) to nootkatone (grapefruit scent). This is Oxford Biotrans’ flagship project and is an example of the prowess we hold over specific enzyme reaction. I have learnt a great deal already in my short time at the company and feel very confident about my future work and projects.

One facet of the job I enjoy the most is the freedom I am given with my experiments. This gives me the determination to try my best, which I know is valued in the team.

Even at this early stage in my career I can see myself developing alongside and within Oxford Biotrans. I feel as though I still have a lot to learn and look forward to the future with the company as it grows.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all staff at IBioIC that assembled the Industrial Biotechnology MSc and would encourage any scientist looking to work in industry to think about applying to the course.