Alumnus testimonial

Alumni Mirka Scharf - MSc Biotechnology

I have done both my Bachelor and Master degree in biotechnology at Wageningen University & Research. During my Bachelor I gained a strong interest in process engineering, which is why I chose the process technology specialisation during my Master. After the completion of my Master programme I went to a career day in Wageningen which had Abbott as one of the exhibitors. When they heard I studied biotechnology they kind of pulled me aside which has led me to my current job.

’When you finish the process technology specialisation, you are a mix between a biologist and a chemical engineer.

Could you tell us something about your daily activities at Abbott?

"My daily activities are always quite different. Right now I am an associate project manager, but I change positions within my own team. My team supports all kinds of production projects from an engineering and project management perspective. Currently I am coordinating between 3 to 5 projects. This coordination starts with the ideation phase which is usually done in collaboration with the production department. During this ideation phase a change to a process is proposed which could have a positive impact. Then we have an extensive phase where we need to document and assess all changes while talking with the quality department which we afterwards package in a so-called design-plan. For example, one of my first projects was to create a design-plan for the upscale of a fermentation which produced an antibody that plays an important role in blood transfusion.’’

What are your future goals?

"When I started at Abbott I first wanted to stick to engineering, but I quickly became interested in project management. You see, you always do what you like most. When I started in the team I immediately started to organize stuff and communicate with everyone. I did not have the managing role at first, but I kind of took it somehow. I really want to stick to management in the future, because it is really versatile. Regarding topics, I remember when I had my job interview here my manager asked what I liked most. That was innovation and that hasn’t changed. There is this field of innovation management right now which is what I would really like to do in the future.’’

How did you experience your time in Wageningen?

"I am originally from Germany, therefore moving to the Netherlands to study was a big step for me to take. In my second year I formed a German group of people which I still speak to often nowadays. Besides that, I joined an orchestra in my first year of which I still have contact with some people. In my third year I went on exchange to Portugal and I also did my Bachelor thesis that year about the esterification of fatty acids. This research project is still the project I enjoyed doing the most up until today. During my Master I followed a course called New Venture Creation which was basically about creating a start-up. During this course my idea got elected to be developed further and further and I actually won a start-up loan of 5000 euros with it which was great. I did my internship in Delft at another start-up about purifying acids from waste streams of the food industry. This start-up is actually quite successful nowadays which is funny considering I was technically employee number one. All of these experiences during my studies have really helped me to get where I am right now. If you pick a career path you are generally interested in, it will be a breeze going through it.’’

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