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Inspiring the next generation of industrial biotechnologists - 2019 Annual Symposium

Rachel Clarke

26 Mar 2019

Inspiring the next generation of industrial biotechnologists is high on the agenda of IBioIC to ensure that there’s a readymade pipeline of talent with the necessary knowledge and skills required for this rapidly expanding and transformative sector.

It’s no surprise that many people haven’t ever heard of industrial biotechnology, and yet, most of us will have used and, or come into regular contact with many of its applications. It’s been around for a while – we’ve been brewing beer for over 7000 years. I read a great article this week by Aisling Irwin (Waste not, want rot), which resonated with some of the activities and conversations that our students have been having over the last few months.
Skilling the Necessary Workforce is my theme within IBioIC and it’s much easier to focus on the quantifiable measures of success such as number of (strikethrough as necessary) PhD/MSc/HND students, their award level, first employment destination etc.
However, it’s the less tangible measures I find the most exciting – from the buzz of new conversation to the quiet contemplation as a new collaboration starts to emerge. That’s what was happening at our first vertically-integrated training event for IBioIC students - from those studying Higher National level qualifications at Glasgow Clyde College, to our MSc and PhD cohorts. Over 85 students plus key stakeholders came together to contemplate “The Good, the Bad and the Biotech”, which was themed around the global challenges we face as a society, and how IB can contribute to reducing their burden on our environment and natural resources:
• Healthcare – specifically antibiotic resistance.
• The health of our oceans.
• Food security and waste.
• Essential resources from sustainable sources.
• The impact of the textile industry.
The great thing about integrating students studying at different levels, is the range of experience and view points in the room. For topics like these, there are no knowledge prerequisites, everyone’s view is equally valuable. This is because all of us are affected by these issues and most of us care deeply about them. But as biotech scientists, we are lucky to have some skills that might let us address some of the problems - or explain them to those who don’t.

It was a hugely energetic symposium that formed part of the IBioIC Conference Fringe - the aim was to empower us all to take responsibility for raising awareness about the sector we work in. We heard from renowned Glasgow Skeptic, Brian Eggo; BBC Scotland Special Correspondent, Ken MacDonald and Susan Meikleham from Glasgow Science Centre, about their views, tips and techniques on engaging your audience by first working out what’s important to them and what kind of approach would pique their interest.
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to explain to someone why you work in IB or are studying IB, raising awareness and building science capital is a responsibility we all have.

For more information or to find out how to access training in engagement or communication skills contact the IBioIC Skills Team.

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