Exploring a Career as a Field Application Scientist

Your undergraduate degree in science may have opened the door to postgraduate studies, but did you know that an advanced degree can also lead to a rewarding career beyond academia as a Field Application Scientist? As Sascha Kiesslich, a Field Application Scientist in Corning's Life Sciences division, points out, you can look forward to ongoing education in this role as well.

Talking about how he stays up-to-date in his field, Sascha noted, "Although my in-depth knowledge in my subject area helps me understand what one of our clients needs, I'm still learning even more every day," through internal training from Corning on the company's products, and by staying current with his field to see how it's evolving.

What Qualifications Does a Field Application Scientist Need?

Sascha spends his day working with clients and Corning's account managers. He applies his specialized knowledge of his subject area and associated Corning products to provide customers with solutions and drive their success.

So how did he end up in the role? What qualifications do you need?

Sascha has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. With this, he brings considerable experience in bioreactors and also experience working in industry during a six-month internship as part of his master's degree studies.

"The in-depth knowledge that I acquired during my Ph.D. helps me understand what clients need," he said. "In addition to that, though, our clients are doing a wide variety of applications, so I'm still learning a lot every day. I'm more an expert in bioreactors for cell and gene therapy than 3D cell growth, for example, but I'm really happy to continue to learn in other directions."

Subject matter expertise and willingness to continue learning are a winning combination. According to Chris Sheen, a Corning account manager who works closely with Sascha, communication skills are also key. Being able to speak the same language as customers is important, as is being able to communicate with account managers.

"It helps when you're earning the trust of customers. When you share that expertise in the field, they tend to trust you more, and it really helps build that relationship moving forward," Chris explains, noting that all business relationships are built on trust.

What Is a Field Application Scientist?

It's established that science degree and experience in the field are required, but what does the role involve? A Field Application Scientist acts as an information hub alongside the account manager. Through them, customers can access all of the expertise needed within Corning to answer specific questions not only about products, but also about processes. The "dynamic duo" takes care of the client as a whole, in addition to providing insight on Corning products.

As Chris notes, this helps to establish a strong business relationship with the customer.

"Whenever a customer is seeking a specific answer that's beyond my expertise, I can reach out to Sascha with the question," he says, noting that Sascha, when available, can connect with the customer directly, or relay answers through the account manager. "That certainly helps establish the business relationship by resolving any issues they're having."

"I don't have a typical day."

According to Sascha, there is no typical day for him. He's involved on a daily, weekly and monthly basis in various activities that keep him connected with Corning and the company's products, as well as with the needs of customers, and emerging developments in the life sciences field.

These include company training and seminars on new products and developments, continuing education in life sciences fields, and internal training on business matters. Corning's Field Application Scientists are involved in presentations internally and at conferences, speaking about science developments and promoting new products to internal and external audiences.

"A lot of times, I work closely together with account managers to deliver presentations about specific products to individual clients," says Sascha. "Delivering a very in-depth scientific seminar might be a good opportunity, or the next one could be a product demonstration."

There are also opportunities to deliver troubleshooting on-site, and remotely. Here, Sascha can travel with the account manager to show how a product is the solution for a project, troubleshoot cell production issues, identify or support opportunities for scaling up production, and address additional equipment needs.

"We can help the customer answer questions and guide them toward the right protocols in our field," explains Sascha. "With cells and biology, there are a lot of unknowns. Some are very specific and not as straightforward as it would seem at the beginning." He adds that support and troubleshooting continue if a customer decides to go ahead with one of the Corning products.

According to Chris, Corning has multiple resources available online for customers, but through him, they can access more specific information from the scientific support group as well. He can bring in Sascha and the Field Application Scientist team to make sure any issues are resolved.

Moving From Academia to Industry

Moving out of academia can seem daunting, but Sascha is quick to reassure. He got a lot of useful onboarding to prepare for the role with Corning, including direction on how to integrate business with science.

"I get a lot of training internally and go to our own Corning labs to learn about new products and get refreshers," he says. "I was also able to practice presentations internally and get feedback."

According to Chris, for students in internships or on placement in labs, account managers and Field Application scientists can be great sources of information about working in the life sciences industry.

"Don't be afraid to talk to us when we're in the field," he says. "I have had many occasions where students reach out to see if I have five minutes to spare because they want to talk about their careers. We appreciate that and do our best to connect them to the right person within Corning."

Sascha notes that the role was not on his radar, even though he knew he wanted to work in industry following his Ph.D.

"The Field Application Scientist role was different from other roles, like for example being a scientist for a specific company," says Sascha, describing how it was the unique variety and diversity of the applications and processes that drew him in.

"All of our customers are doing amazing things, and I get to learn what they do, and can work with them hands on for so many different things. If I worked for a specific company, I'd maybe work only on a few projects at a time. In this role, I've learned so much in different fields, such as 3D cell or virus production, cell culture, and vaccine production. It's a great spot to be in to see how the whole [life sciences] field is evolving."