Virginia’s secondment at Molecular Dimensions

What is the purpose of this secondment?
For my secondment in Molecular Dimensions, we came up with an idea to build a web tool that will help crystallographers to optimise crystallisation plates, especially in the initial crystallisation trials. The project was inspired by one of the most common feedback MDL gets from the users of their crystallisation plates.
A common issue many crystallographers have is that once an initial crystallisation hit has been obtained from a commercial screen, the optimisation of the hit conditions is not trivial it could be quite challenging. The task becomes even more challenging when users try to optimise some of the newest, more sophisticated screens. These screens have many complex conditions and a large number of variables (salts, buffers, precipitant, additives, pH, temperature…). The drawback of these screens is that as the complexity increases, the strangles of designing an optimisation strategy increases as well.
To address this issue, I am working on the design and implementation of a web application that builds optimisation screens for Molecular Dimensions screen conditions.

What added value(s) do you think this secondment will bring to
your PhD?

My secondment in Molecular Dimensions is certainly different from the secondments I had before. The main part of my PhD involves building computational models, but it is the first time that I am applying my coding skills to build a web tool. Since I started my secondment, I have learnt a lot of new skills and evolve my coding knowledge by working in a completely different project. Another interesting aspect is the collaboration with a
company. We are designing a product that will eventually be used by a wide audience. I have to build a tool that will satisfy the needs of the client, but at the same time, it will be easy to use and can be implemented in a limited amount of time.
As I am entering the final year of my PhD, there is a lot of thoughts about what I would do after finishing my PhD. Although I still leaning towards academia, it is very important that during my studies I get the chance to work for a company. It gives me much more confidence to know that in case I want to work in the industry in the future, I will have some related experience.

Would you prefer to spend more or less time in your
secondment as to the research work you are doing / had to do?

Since this is my final year, my research is my main concern. Being in my secondment and not having time to work on my research project can cause stress at times. Yet, I completely value my secondment in Molecular Dimensions as an advantage of this particular PhD program. Not many postgraduate programs give students the chance to work with leading
companies in the industry, so I think it is a great opportunity. Speaking for my industrial secondment, the arranged time spending in my secondment seems reasonable.

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