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Fireside Chat with Livio König, Lab Manager

June 30, 2021

Livio König, Lab Manager at CyanoGuard, hails from the small town of Winterthur in Switzerland and was our third employee. He’s seen the company grow fast and quickly over the years, all while balancing his studies and supporting our production. How did he do it? You’ll just have to read on to find out.  

1. To kick things off, could you tell us a bit about your career background and current role?  

I did an apprenticeship as a laboratory technician. I worked in multiple companies as a laboratory technician for companies such as Merck & Cie and Hydrior and ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. I then took a break to travel the world and would say that Myanmar was probably my favorite of them all. When I came back, I started my studies in biotechnology and have been working with CyanoGuard for three years as a Lab Manager. Here, I synthesize and coordinate the analysis of chemical compounds, maintain the logistics and support the production.  

2. What have you done in regards to personal development since you started at CyanoGuard?

I gained personal development in taking on more responsibilities. For example, I’m responsible for synthesis, which I often do on my own without any help, and I have to make a lot of trials and errors to see if it worked.

3. You’re also currently studying; how does what you’re learning compliment your work at CyanoGuard?

I’m currently studying at ZHAW, one of the leading universities of applied sciences in Switzerland. With my studies, I learned a lot about quality and risk management. It gives me a good insight into what I have to do. It also really helps as we are going into our ISO certification and understanding SOP, what it is and why we need it. My bachelor’s degree has helped me learn much more about these topics.  

4. What advice do you have for students who are looking to balance work and studies?

The best advice I could give is to find a company that is located close to your university. ZHAW has a campus in Wadenswil, which is right next to our office, so I save a lot of time commuting. Ideally, you also need to work individually and plan to work by yourself to have the flexibility to better balance your studies with work.  

5. What’s your thesis on?

My thesis is about accomplishing established enzyme cascades in E-coli with molecular cloning. The enzyme cascade is able to produce expensive melon aroma from cheap citric aroma. Synthesis with enzyme cascades in bacteria can be more environmentally friendly than traditional synthesis. I chose this topic because it’s a good mix of molecular biology and chemistry, which also needs some technical lab experience. So it fuses both these experiences and I hope to have a pleasant-smelling melon aroma come out of it.

6. How do you ensure CyanoGuard follows industry standards and safety regulations?

With my background, I know how to handle specific laboratory tasks that follow best practices in terms of safety stands. I can also ensure that we follow the SOP and guarantee quality throughout the process.  

7. What’s a great way to troubleshoot a given procedure in the lab?

The most important thing to do is to understand your process. When the process isn’t working, you have to take one step back and analyze each step of the process to evaluate the error. When there’s still an issue, sometimes it’s good to just start anew.  

8. How have you seen CyanoGuard change since your time here?

I joined the company when there were just two people, the CEO and former CTO. I was the third person here and handling the laboratory work. I got to see how much we grew in terms of new machinery, new people hired, and overall, it was exciting to see the whole process of how a company grows.

9. What skills do you believe are needed to be a great lab manager?

As a lab manager in a start up, you can have to be very creative in finding solutions to your problems. There’s no infrastructure given and everything has to be set up from scratch. To be a great lab manager, you have to be innovative in finding solutions to your problems, having an overview of your stocks and knowing the safety regulation in terms of handling toxic chemicals. You also need to know how to work in the most environmentally friendly and sustainable way possible.

10. What has one of your most outstanding achievements been?

I think my most significant achievement here is the synthesis of the sensor. At the moment it’s not possible to find a supplier for it, so to do the synthesis from scratch and to produce the sensor with high quality is rewarding.

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