I am always curious to learn how my colleagues got to where they are in their science careers. In this post for the “I Love Science Because…” series, I had the opportunity to interview my colleague Maciej, Mass Spectrometry Product Marketing Manager, with whom I have been working on exciting projects regarding HR/AM (high resolution, accurate mass) Orbitrap technology advantages ( link to HRAM Orbitrap Advantage) for quantitative and qualitative applications.
Naomi: Maciej, How did you get into science and what led you to your current position?
Maciej: I was always interested in science and mathematics even as a kid. I often asked my parents how things worked, why the sky was blue, why water was wet. My love of astronomy was the starting point of real science.
Ultimately, I decided to study physics at the University of Manitoba. The summer after my freshman year was focused on condensed-matter physics. However, things took an unexpected turn the next summer when there was no funding for a theoretical physics summer student at my university. Instead, I was offered a position working in a mass spectrometry laboratory. There were two major reasons I stuck with it and ended up with a career in the field.
First, I had a great professor who encouraged even the undergrads to contribute to all aspects of the lab. I was surrounded by Ph.D.s and graduate students, yet I was allowed to participate in discussions, present at meetings, and really become part of the laboratory family.
Second, until that point I had really only studied theories about science… a lot of Albert Einstein (link to biography)… and working in the lab was my first opportunity to do truly in-depth, hands-on experiments. My first project came about through an academic and industrial collaboration to build a linear TOF-MS (link to article). I was able to design, build, and test an actual laboratory instrument, which was very exciting. I was able to build my first circuit board, first ion optics, use the oscilloscope (link to article), voltmeter and many other cool devices. In short, the TOF didn’t work well, but that didn’t discourage my interest in mass spec. My next project was MALDI research (link to mass spectrometry review article) on a home-built Q-TOF MS. Future work on UV MALDI and IR MALDI blossomed into a M.Sc. thesis.
Naomi: If a science major student comes up to you and asks what it takes to be successful in science, what would be your advice?
Maciej: It’s a combination of things for sure, but it all starts with interest in general science and then trying to find out how things work. As a teenager I often read basic science and astronomy books. I enjoyed watching Cosmos by Carl Sagan (Link to new series of Cosmos) and doing small experiments, even at home. With time, the projects grew in size and complexity and sometimes resulted in little to no success. But I often said to myself that if I work on this long enough, I will be able to solve this problem. So perhaps, if I had to pick one word to give advice on what it takes to be successful in science, it would be perseverance. Be focused on your work and don’t give up too quickly.
Naomi: What do you love about your job?
Maciej: It’s not just one thing or two, it’s really the whole environment that I am in. I have been doing mass spectrometry since my Bachelor’s degree and I enjoy operating a mass spectrometer, collecting data, and learning what is or is not in sample. I enjoy speaking to other scientists at work or conferences about their results, new technology, or brainstorming ideas that may help them do better lab work in the future.
So, I love almost all aspects of my job: new product introduction, creating new and exciting marketing, attending conferences, giving presentations to our users or new customers, and educating our new clients about what Orbitrap (link to Planet Orbitrap) can do for their labs.
There is one thing I must say that I don’t love… too many e-mails!
Naomi: Thank you Maciej for sharing a piece of your life experiences in science. Now, let’s change gears before we close. Just for fun, if you could be a professional athlete, in which sport would it be?
Maciej: Ha! Interesting question! Actually I like many sports so it’s difficult for me to pick one, but because this is a very hypothetical question I would choose to be a Formula 1 driver (link to Inside F1 racing)!
Naomi: Wow, can you tell us why you picked Formula 1?
Maciej: Well, it’s not because of the very loud noise from the engines or because of being in the spotlight, but because Formula 1 drivers have an amazing chance to test the best technology R&D makes! I can only imagine that the experience driving a Formula 1 car is breathtaking. In addition, Formula 1 drivers often travel to exotic places, meet amazing people, and eat and drink the best local foods.