Dr. Russell Kerr’s work day could be in a wet suit diving into the waters off PEI and around the world to collect fungi and marine invertebrates for drug and cosmeceutical development. Or he could be wearing a business suit and talking with investors. He also teaches at the Atlantic Veterinary College.
“I enjoy the variety of tasks from mentoring graduate students, designing an experiment, to directing research that has never been done before into something I care about: human health.
“We work with thousands of organisms and chemicals, discovering new forms of life and developing new natural products. It’s been well worth the 11 years of education after high school.”
Dr. Kerr is a Research Fellow at Nautilus Biosciences in Charlottetown, which is wholly owned by Croda International. Scientists at Nautilus turn a bio-diverse collection of microbes into cosmetic and agricultural products for the marketplace. Croda develops, manufactures, and sells specialty chemicals for some of the biggest, most successful brands in the world.
“Croda intends to establish Nautilus as a Croda Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology. Becoming part of the Croda group provides Nautilus the resources and support to establish a key centre for the research and development of marine-derived natural products.”
Nautilus staff have a variety of education backgrounds, such as Bachelors, Masters and PhDs in chemistry or microbiology, as well as Engineering and Bioscience Technology diploma. Job titles include Research Scientists, Research and Technical Managers, and Team Leaders.
“I am willing to do job shadowing with high school students, and we also offer on-the-job training for Holland College Bioscience Technology students and university science and engineering students. One engineering/biology student built a device with a 3D printer for our lab to isolate bacteria and fungi. She will travel with us to The Bahamas to do field work.”
Dr. Kerr says the rewarding part of his job is the teamwork. “Inside the lab or working abroad, I have had the privilege to work with wonderful people from Germany, Australia, United States, Brazil, Colombia, and Russia.”
Another route to a science career
Sarah Ashby is a research technician with a B.Sc. in Biology from UPEI and an M.Sc. in Biotechnology from McGill University.
“There are many different paths to a successful career in science. Choosing to work as a research scientist allowed me to finish my education, join the workforce, and have the work/life balance I desired.
“The bioscience industry on PEI is booming, and there are a lot of opportunities. I am a Research Technician at OmniActive Health Technologies Ltd., which is entirely staffed by women. I have been inspired by many women mentors in senior and leadership roles. I encourage female high school students to pursue a career in science.”
The bioscience industry on PEI
PEI BioAlliance, the umbrella organization for the Island’s 54 bioscience companies, reports about 1,600 people work in this industry. The organization posted 125 job opportunities on its website in 2017. The sector generated $200 million in revenue in 2017.
“Aside from many scientific career opportunities, there are other ways to participate in this growing industry, including careers in finance, sales, and IT,” says Vivian Beer, HR Manager for PEI BioAlliance. “Companies collaborate with each other on projects. It’s truly a great community.”
For bioscience job opportunities and networking events, visit www.peibioalliance.com.