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Dr. Alexander Ulrich, Research Scientist
Please shortly describe your current profession. What does your typical day at work look like?
I am working in a medium-sized biotech company called Proteros biostructures GmbH in Martinsried, close to Munich. My company has a strong expertise in Protein Sciences and offers research services to pharma companies and other biotech companies. My role is to crystallize and solve the structures of proteins in order to visualize their interaction with small molecule drug candidates. In addition, I am building up a new service product: cryo-electron microscopy. On a typical day, I am working at my computer, plan experiments and attend meetings to align with my colleagues.
What was your motivation for studying Biochemistry?
During my civil service in a cancer unit of a hospital I realized that I want to help patients but do not want to become a medical doctor. Instead, I was interested in participating in medical research.
When and how did you choose your current profession? Did you realize your plans from the time of your studies?
After studying, I did a PhD in Structural Biology and afterwards a postdoc at FU Berlin. At this time, I was not sure if I should become a professor or go to industry instead. The uncertainty in the academic sector was a key factor for me to go to industry.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing for your work that you learned during your studies? What do you still profit from?
Since I work in Protein Science, I still profit a lot from my Biochemistry lectures and practical courses as well as from the Organic Chemistry and Physics/Physical Chemistry classes. An important skill I needed during my PhD and postdoc was to be able to organize and plan an experiment. The basics for this I learned during experimental classes during my Biochemistry studies.
Which additional qualifications should one gain as a student that are crucial or useful for your current profession?
I wish I had done more Bioinformatics and Linux Computing. This would have helped me a lot during my postdoc and in my current position.
Is there anything from the master’s program that evokes especially strong memories?
My internship at the University of Oxford and my diploma thesis at Rockefeller University in New York. In general, I liked the flexibility of doing internships and practical classes at different institutions.
What advice would you give master students who would like to pursue a similar career?
Study as broad as possible to get to know all fields of Biochemistry. This overview will help you to figure out what you really enjoy and, at the same time, is relevant for industry. Pick this as a topic for your PhD and, if you still like it, as a starting point for your career.