Graduate students at Campden BRI

An insight into working as part of the Campden BRI graduate programme

3 May 2023 | Sian and Andrew, Graduate Scientists at Campden BRI

Microbiology and Me – Andrew

Andrew - graduate student

An unexpected journey

Passion for food microbiology was not something I discovered until my placement year at university in which I worked for a company that provided services in this sector. Whilst they offered a broad scope of microbiological services in other fields such as medical and environmental, it was the food microbiology services where I found my true interest. This drove me to find a company that was not only focused on the food and drink industry, but would have a much greater focus on the area of microbiology that I strived to work in and where I felt I could reach my full potential.

The experience has been everything I hoped for and more!

Campden BRI had worked with my placement company, so it was a name I was familiar with. Upon nearing the end of my biology degree at Portsmouth University, I was delighted to see there was an opening on the graduate programme at Campden BRI and decided to go for it as the advert promised everything I was looking for.

The experience has been everything I hoped for and more! It has provided countless development opportunities, including the ability to move departments (within microbiology) every three months, which is developing my scientific skills beyond anything I was expecting. To be able to achieve this within the field of food microbiology was key to me and I’m thankful that the unique range of services that Campden BRI offers the food and drink industry has enabled me to do this

Development, development, development

My experience so far has been extremely positive. As I write this, I am sitting halfway through my second rotation, which is within industrial process microbiology. This revolves heavily around testing the heat resistance of food pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes when they are present in different foods. This can be done in a multitude of ways to closely mimic the heat treatment that would be applied to the food of interest during its manufacture.

The skills I’m learning here are vastly different to my first rotation in the microbiological analytical services department, which was much more direct in taking food samples and putting them through a multitude of detection tests for not only pathogens, such as Salmonella, but spoilage organisms, such as Lactobacillus, which can pose a real threat to product shelf-life.

I will then, over the course of the next 10 months, be rotated around the other microbiology departments. This will develop my skills further but also my understanding and ideas of what I aim to achieve by the end of the programme and in turn inform the direction of the next steps in my career.

Microbiology agar plates with food

...I have been made to feel welcome from day one

A true fellowship

Joining any new job can be a scary and intimidating process, especially when you must move far from home. However this was not the case with Campden BRI, where I have been made to feel welcome from day one.

Not only has it been rewarding getting to know so many like-minded people, throughout my rotations and across the company, who share my passion for the food and drink industry, I also onboarded alongside four other graduates in the same programme. This has provided a great opportunity to share our experiences with one another, especially as we are ‘in the same boat’.

Not just microbiology

In addition to my rotation around the microbiology departments, I will have the opportunity to do ‘mini-placements’ in the support functions of the business, such as the marketing and sales teams. This is clearly an invaluable opportunity as it provides an insight into departments that I would never have otherwise had the opportunity to get, broadening my understanding as well as allowing me to see how all the elements of the business tie together and support one another.

To showcase our cross functional collaborations and innovation capabilities, Campden BRI provides colleagues an opportunity to form small innovation groups and develop ideas for a food or drink product for an annual internal competition. The teams and their created products go head-to-head and are judged on several criteria, with a generous prize for the winners up for grabs. I will be taking this opportunity alongside the other members of the graduate programme to form a team and develop a new product. With the innovation element and with the graduates being spread across various scientific departments, this will be a fantastic development opportunity to undergo an ‘entrepreneur’ style challenge, which I’ve never done before.

To infinity and beyond

Although my tenure has been short at present, I can really see myself fitting into a permanent role here at Campden BRI. The culture that exists here is nothing but a positive one that encourages you to develop yourself in not only role-specific ways, but also to step out of your work area and comfort zone and really push yourself to achieve your full potential.

My experience on the Campden BRI graduate programme so far – Sian

Sian - graduate student

Interest in the food and drink industry

I am approximately 5 months into my role as a graduate scientist at Campden BRI and I am thoroughly enjoying it. From studying chemistry at Cardiff University, I was particularly interested in applying my knowledge in the food and drink industry and completed an industrial placement year at a soft drinks company. This encouraged me to pursue my interest further.

An opportunity at Campden BRI

I was aware of Campden BRI through my industrial placement and, when I saw the graduate programme emerge, I was keen to apply – I thought it would be the perfect role to use the chemistry skills that I gained through my degree as well as to find out more about the science of food and drinks and how to analyse them. I was also drawn to the opportunity to gain a wider understanding of all the roles required for the functioning of this type of business.

So far, the experience has been great as I have learnt a wide variety of technical skills, learnt a lot about Campden BRI and the food industry specifically, and developed my commercial awareness generally.

My experience on the graduate programme

So far, the experience has been great as I have learnt a wide variety of technical skills, learnt a lot about Campden BRI and the food industry specifically, and developed my commercial awareness generally. I have most enjoyed meeting such a lovely group of people who are passionate about their roles and about research in the industry. I have gained invaluable knowledge through meeting colleagues from different departments within the business.

The company has been excellent in aiding understanding of the area Campden BRI sits in, including the “lunch and learn” sessions which helped provide insight into trends in the food and drink industry and the importance of the different ways that we support our clients.

The company has been excellent in aiding understanding of its place within the overall food and drink industry, providing insight into industry trends and sharing the importance of the different ways that we support our clients. Colleagues can take part in “lunch and learn” sessions, which were really valuable for gaining this understanding.

Chromatography services

I have been based within the chromatography team, which has helped me to improve my skills in high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and learn a wide variety of different methods. It was eye-opening to discover the range of testing provided by Campden BRI, many of which I did not previously know, and I gained the skills required to test for a range of analytes.

Campden BRI scientists in laboratory

Building on my experience of equipment and processes in general HPLC, I moved on to work with mycotoxins, which are a group of naturally occurring chemicals that can cause a variety of adverse health effects in humans – they are produced by certain moulds found on a variety of different foodstuffs including cereals, nuts, spices, dried fruits, apple juice and coffee.

This experience has emphasised to me the importance of our testing, whether this be a legal requirement, for research and development or to provide information for the product label. The information and testing we provide is part of making sure that products are safe to consume.

I look forward to developing my analytical and lab skills further, such as learning gas chromatography, to expand the client services that I am involved with.

A well-rounded experience around the business

As well as gaining experience in different analytical departments, I have recently completed a week’s placement based outside of the lab where I have been able to learn more about different departments within the company. I started the week learning about the finance team, where I have found out about each person’s role and useful context around financial accounting, credit control, purchasing and accounts payable.

I then moved on to learn about the marketing team which again involved a broad range of activities, from producing and implementing communications both internally and externally, managing social media channels, web design and development, scientific writing, graphic design and market research.

The week concluded with learning about the advanced innovation team. It was fascinating to see these completely different areas of the business and how my day-to-day role links in with these areas.

Career path and future plans

I look forward to gaining more experience in the food and drink industry, expanding my knowledge and growing my role within the technical expertise that we provide to our members and clients.

Interested in working at Campden BRI?

If you’d like to find out more about our graduate programme and other career opportunities at Campden BRI, visit our careers page.

Careers at Campden BRI

Analysis and testing support

We offer a comprehensive range of analytical services and training programmes to support the safety and quality of raw materials and semi-manufactured and finished products.

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