The ability to make a difference in people’s lives through research was what attracted Ms Fiona Ng, 30, to the biomedical science field.
In 2006, she joined global biotechnology company Life Technologies Corporation and is now with its research and development systems department.
Her employer is a global provider of molecular diagnostic and research products that enable researchers to accelerate scientific and medical advancements. Its clients are involved in work that advances the fields of discovery and translational research, molecular medicine, stem cell-based therapies, food safety and animal health and forensics.
The company holds one of the largest intellectual property estates in the life sciences industry — with about 3,900 patents and exclusive licenses — and has a presence in some 170 countries. Last year, it set up a regional distribution hub in Singapore to cater to strong customer demand in the Asia-Pacific region.
As a scientist, Ms Ng spends most of her time developing reagents used in experiments and researching new ideas that can lead to new inventions and patents.
The molecular biology major from the University of Queensland, Australia, used to be a laboratory officer at the Genome Institute of Singapore.
She was first introduced to Life Technologies Corporation by a friend, who was then working there as a mechanical
“He sung many praises about the company, saying how well-structured it is, and that it has good employee benefits and provides good training opportunities. It gives staff wide exposure and you’ll never get stagnant in what you are doing,” says Ms Ng.
Since joining the company, she has received ample learning opportunities. Her first posting was to the company’s department of systems verification and validation. A year later, she spent six months at the company’s head office in San Francisco in the United States working on a genetic analyser project.
“I had the chance to meet the people I had been talking with over the phone and experience a different working culture. This rare chance brought us closer and strengthened our working relationship,” she says.
Cross-training is also part and parcel of her career development. Over the last six years, she has moved across several departments within the company, which gave her room to pick up new skills.
After three years at the department of systems verification and validation, she moved to the department of research and development for animal health, which designs and develops chemistry tests to detect diseases in cows, pigs and marine organisms.
There, she was given the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas, where she got to meet and interact with the company’s animal health team there.
Last August, Ms Ng was transferred to the department of research and development systems to learn the engineering aspects of the instruments.
“My stint in Life Technologies has been so exciting that I’m not sure if I can get the same kind of experience and exposure elsewhere. By interacting with the different groups of chemists, software developers, scientists, firmware engineers, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers, there’s always something new to learn everyday,” she says.
A career highlight has been helping her employer develop a new genetic analysis instrument known as the QuantStudio 12K Flex Real-Time PCR System, which was launched in October last year. The product reportedly enables cost-effective and efficient interrogation of hundreds of target genes over thousands of samples in a single run.
Ms Ng’s greatest satisfaction comes from hearing praises from customers about the company’s products and knowing what she does “improves the human condition and has a positive environmental impact”.
To succeed in her job takes a great amount of passion and patience, she says.
“Research can take years and there are many times where you do not get positive results. You will need to persevere and not give up, and keep trying.”