Hi, my name is...
…Marius. I am a PhD student in neuropsychology and come from Magdeburg, in the north-east of Germany. One of the key methods in my research is measuring electrical brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG). I am most passionate about connecting with other researchers and learning from them, so I was happy to get the chance to join Roche in March for a 9-month Roche Internship for Scientific Exchange (RiSE), in which I am investigating relationships between EEG and clinical symptoms in neurodevelopmental disorders. The RiSE program offers internships specifically for doctoral students within the Roche research department. Getting to know this applied research environment is exciting for me, even though juggling my internship at Roche and my ongoing PhD research projects is sometimes stressful. At weekends, I use every opportunity to go hiking in Switzerland’s beautiful outdoors, which is a great way to relieve stress.
My typical day at work is…
...full of data analysis. We receive patient EEG datasets as well as different clinical tests and questionnaires from collaborating companies and universities. I spend much of my time at work building statistical analyses and models to understand these datasets and establish relationships between them. Every 2-3 days, I meet with my supervisor or other colleagues to discuss the latest results, plan the next steps and get help with any problems. Besides working on my own research project, I have opportunities for networking, attending talks and seminars, and getting insights into other projects.
The location I am working at is…
…an open-space office on the 16th floor of the Roche Tower in Basel. This is a cool place to work – and definitely the best view out of an office window that I have ever had. For phone calls or meetings, there are separate, quiet rooms. There’s also the studio, a combined two-floor break room and communication space including a terrace, which is a neat place for coffee breaks or one-on-one meetings. I live in a flat that is a comfortable, five-minute bike ride from work.
My work helps Roche to…
…gain a better clinical understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders, of how different genetically defined patient subpopulations can be characterized and how the development over time is for different symptom areas. This understanding is needed in planning clinical studies and assessing the effectiveness of new drugs.
Roche as an employer is…
…highly recommendable, as far as I can tell. My managers as well as people from HR, IT and Facility Services are very helpful with any questions that I have. The culture within our department is open, friendly and respectful. A really nice part of the company culture is having meetings over lunch or coffee; this can be so much more productive than meeting in the office. The company regularly organises top-level scientific or career-related talks and social get-togethers.
What distinguishes the science at Roche from your experience at university?
At Roche, research projects tend to be embedded within a larger framework, such as a drug development project. At university, you are more or less free to create your own study ideas, whereas at Roche, every study should ultimately serve the drug development project. I think that this has upsides and downsides: being part of a larger project in industry research can certainly foster motivation and task commitment, but the price may be limitations to your scientific freedom. The availability of resources is another main difference: university research is a constant struggle for funding, software and equipment or office and lab space, whereas none of this appears to be a major problem at Roche. Furthermore, I feel that the very active exchanges among researchers from different backgrounds and the integration of their points of view are a productive basis for tackling research questions at Roche.
How did the RiSE programme help you to develop?
The RiSE programme has given me the opportunity to learn new methodical skills and build on existing ones, and to broaden my horizons by delving into an entirely new field of research and learning to move and communicate in an international industrial environment. I think all of this will be very useful in my future career.
What would you suggest to people who are interested in the RiSE Program?
Most RiSE interns are at the very end of their PhD. If you still have PhD work to complete, like me, you should clarify in advance with your academic advisor and your hiring manager at Roche how you are going to integrate this with your research activity at Roche, and whether you will have enough time and energy for both. And then: do it – it pays off!
Did Marius capture your attention? Find out more about the RiSE programme here.