5 Questions with Ian Sarad, BioProcess Application Engineer, Scientific Bioprocessing

“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This edition features 5 Questions with Ian Sarad, BioProcess Application Engineer, Scientific Bioprocessing.

Ian is an industrial microbiologist and fermentation scientist specializing in process optimization and upstream modification of cell culture parameters for increased yield, viability, and productivity. Experienced with a variety of fermentation technologies, including hollow-fiber bioreactor systems, industrial stirred-tanks, and shake-flasks, Ian is excited to lend his background in cell culture to the SBI team.

Ian earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Georgia State University, where he worked with a research team on the development of volatile organic compounds produced via fermentation of Rhodococcus rhodochrous for treatment of fungal pathogens, specifically Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the causative agent of White-Nose Syndrome in bats.

Though originally from Bakersfield, California, and has resided in Atlanta since 2007, Ian considers Seattle his hometown, the town where he lived for a decade and met his wife. When not working, he enjoys traveling the world; he and his wife have traveled to more than 20 countries, including a three-month backpack tour of South America. If they aren’t traveling, he and his wife spend a copious amount of time planning their next adventure.

1. Please walk us through your education and career up to now.

Despite finding a comforting home in the biotechnology field, I actually started my education in music theory and composition while living in Seattle. And while it may seem like a jump from music to biology, it was a seamless transition, and I discovered that many of the skills needed to excel in the arts are the same ones required for the sciences.

After moving from Seattle to Atlanta, I transitioned from music to biology. Since I’d been having a secret long term love affair with fungi, I found myself in the perfect position to become a mycologist. It just so happened that at Georgia State University, where I was pursuing my degree, Dr. Chris Cornelison was leading the fight against a particularly devastating fungal pathogen responsible for a rapid and dramatic decrease in the United States’ bat population.

As soon as I had the opportunity, I joined the antifungal research lab. Through an unlikely turn of events, I was given a chance to work on the project’s cell culture optimization side. It was here that Dr. Courtney Barlament introduced me to the wonderful world that is fermentation sciences, and I haven’t looked back since.

Professionally, I have focused my career on cell culture and fermentation sciences aspects of the medical device and pharmaceutical fields. For the past few years, I have been primarily involved with process optimization and production of monoclonal antibodies.

2. You are a BioProcess Applications Engineer. Explain what that means and what your daily responsibilities are.

I can do my best, but I don’t have a daily routine similar to most jobs. And since the Scientific Bioprocessing team is so small and there are constantly changing priorities, we all have to wear many different hats. If that means calibrating equipment, or making buffers, or helping customers with specific questions, that becomes my job for the moment.

As a bioprocess application engineer specifically, I split my time between developing cell culture-based laboratory experiments that utilize and showcase our unique technology and talking with research and industry professionals about their specific needs. It’s a big part of my job to learn as much as I can about problems people face in cell culture and fermentation sciences, and then to communicate that information to our engineers so we can find creative ways that SBI can help make their lives and work a little easier.

3. You’ve just recently joined SBI. What do you enjoy most about working there?

I enjoy a lot of little things about the opportunity to work with SBI, but first and foremost, it’s the team. The SBI leadership has been meticulous in choosing people that round out the team and work well together. Every person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so far is incredibly bright, and each of them brings their own unique set of skills to the table with them. While there’s a bit of overlap in many of our backgrounds, there are no two people with the same specializations, so we wonderfully complement each other.

There are also no egos on the team getting in the way of work, which is a refreshing change from some of the labs I have been involved with in the past. It’s just a small group of people working very hard with the same goal in mind.

4. What is a project that you’ve been working on that you’re most excited about? Tell us about it.

I’m most excited about where the application of real-time in-line monitoring of cell culture parameters can lead us. Having worked in bioprocessing for most of my professional career, I feel like there is an opportunity here to answer a lot of the questions that I’ve been asking and struggling with for so long.

There are just so many ways that the SBI sensors can help in biotechnology and bioprocessing that it’s got the potential to be a real game-changer. It’s exhilarating for people like me that happen to love the minutia of industrial microbiology and fermentation sciences. For everyone else, it’s just an elegant solution to a decade’s long problem

5. Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without and why?

I don’t think there are many things that I couldn’t go a day without, but there are things that make my days more interesting and worthwhile. The most important to me, with the exception of my family, of course, is visual art, mainly paintings and sculptures.

Neither my wife nor myself are extraordinarily gifted artists. Still, we have found a mutual love of collecting, and our house is filled with artwork we have collected individually and together throughout our lives. Our artwork makes our home a more interesting and enjoyable place to live, and we have visited museums and collected art together for almost 20 years.

My taste in art tends to lean abstract, and without getting too philosophical, I get inspired and find great joy in work that does not have to be something recognizable to be something special and beautiful.

If you want to understand what is happening inside my head and see what brings me joy, take a long quiet look at the work of Jackson Pollock or Larry Poons.

Thank you to Ian Sarad for participating in the ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region and beyond.

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