Meet Tobias, Intern in the RiSE Programme at Roche

Hi, my name is…

…Tobias and I come from Germany. I joined the Roche Ophthalmology Department in November 2015 as a RiSE (Roche Internship for Scientific Exchange) intern, and I work on a genetics project. I completed my MSc in Biology in Regensburg, Germany, and I immediately applied to join the programme as I was extremely interested to learn about the differences and similarities between academia and industry. At weekends, I especially enjoy discovering new places in Switzerland, France or Germany.

My typical day at work is…

…far from monotonous. The “Roche Internship for Scientific Exchange” (RiSE) Programme offers PhD and MD-level students the opportunity to acquire hands-on experience in one of the most important biotech companies in the world. I am working on a project designed to elucidate the connection between genetics and the underlying causes of certain diseases, and this involves a number of different tasks. A big part of my daily work consists of data management, finding solutions for maximizing the value of databases and translating the results into biologically relevant information. To this end, I constantly meet with experts from different fields to discuss our points of view and share information. This is a joint project in collaboration with the University of Regensburg, where I work regularly to discuss results and get the most from both parties.

The location I am working at is…

…situated in Basel, Switzerland, at Roche headquarters. It is located next to the Rhine, which offers an excellent setting for people to come together and enjoy the good weather during lunch breaks. These gatherings also facilitate communication between the different departments. My office is next to the newest building on site, which is currently the tallest office building in Switzerland and an impressive example of the investment in infrastructure. It usually takes about 15 minutes to commute to Roche from home using public transport.

My work helps Roche to …

…understand the influence of genetics on human disease. Through the work in Roche Pharma Research and Early Development we aim to shed light on the relationship between the different factors that can interact to cause disease. This basic knowledge is required when designing and evaluating candidate drugs, especially in the context of the increasing awareness of personalised healthcare.

Roche as an employer is…

…empowering, since it provides lots of possibilities for acquiring and exchanging knowledge. Working in the complex field of biology and genetics requires collaborations between various fields. In addition, Roche offers the possibility to attend lectures presented by outstanding experts in the field.

At Roche, people are open to discuss ideas and to offer their help. Thus, it is easy to create networking relationships and also to share impressions and thoughts about our daily work.

What distinguishes the science at Roche from your experience at university?

In my opinion, there are two major differences between research at Roche and the experience I acquired from university. These can be summarised as “Target orientation” and “Team-Work/Collaborations”.

Every scientific project at Roche has to justify its value in regard to the goal of developing new medicines to improve patients’ lives. This means that only the most promising options are pursued to achieve goals without any detours. For this reason, some projects in industry might be stopped due to others which have more potential to improve patients' lives. At university, research is sometimes focused on small details and therefore loses its focus on a higher-level target.  

Another important difference is that projects at Roche generally involve a network of experts with backgrounds in different fields, whereas at university most workgroups work independently of each other and rarely exchange knowledge. Involving experts from different fields can unravel and solve challenges that might arise at the beginning. This is especially important since numerous steps are necessary on the way from early research to final drug development.

How did the RiSE Programme help you to develop?

Working at Roche gives me the opportunity to get an impression of how science works in a big company. In life sciences it can sometimes be difficult to make the transition from academia. The RiSE Programme helped me expand my knowledge. On the one hand, I learned about the different steps taken between research and drug development. On the other hand, it helped me to start building a network and provided a reference of career pathways from other colleagues. This helps me be aware of the different opportunities available to choose from in the future.

What would you suggest to people who are interested in the RiSE Programme?

Just go for it, even if you think you would fulfil only 80-90% of the requirements. The RiSE Programme aims to provide you with additional skills and give you the opportunity to advance your career. You can apply online here.

Tags: Career Blog, Switzerland, Basel, Interns, Research