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Agnieszka Rutkowska

Lead Electrochemist

Depixus

And - Consultant

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Reach high, to the stars, standing up brave on the path to your dreams. Never be afraid to ask for help and support.

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am a physical chemistry specialist, with in-depth knowledge in electrochemistry, a field that describes the movement of charges in an electrolyte. I am particularly interested in nano- and biotechnology sectors, and the integration of next-generation electronic components in biomolecule sequencing platforms. I possess over 10 years of experience in turning disruptive innovations into technological reality. I do this by developing novel technologies from the early stage to prototyping and product commercialisation.

 

In my current role, as the electrochemist lead at Depixus, I co-develop a revolutionary new platform for sequencing nucleic acid variants. I demonstrate the applicability of carefully designed digital chip-based devices for high-precision manipulation and high-resolution detection of molecular structures.

 

Before, as a CTO at Myriofoam, I directed the development of novel thermal materials for effective heat transfer control of electronic devices, warranting improved performance of consumer electronics. I delivered this effective and low-cost technology by utilising a single-step sustainable and scalable manufacture process. The methodology was developed through excellent technical execution of in-depth experimental design and modelling.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I found chemistry fascinating from early childhood through the influence of my father, who was a polymer chemist. We used to perform fun and messy experiments and answer tricky and endless questions. I always tended to pay a lot – for some friends even too much – attention to detail in other, more ordinary, activities. My interest in molecular physics and chemistry developed in primary school back in my home country Poland, where chemistry was taught from year 8. In high school I read academic books on physical chemistry, molecular interactions, and solid-state physics. I was fascinated by the structure of crystals and the possibility of creating molecules from atoms, that I was able to explain using quantum physics. Surprisingly, at some point I detoured from my primary interest and decided to study Polish linguistics… However, after 2 years, I was finally convinced that my career was in chemistry. After successfully submitting my bachelor’s thesis on the terminology of quantum chemistry, I returned to my ultimate adventure with chemistry. I concentrated my efforts on physical chemistry and defended my M.Sc. in nanotechnology. I knew I wanted to do my Ph.D. abroad and chose the United Kingdom to study nanoscale electrochemistry. I further strengthened my knowledge and confidence in the subject and eventually, focused on an interdisciplinary and demanding field of biomolecular sensing.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

I recently discovered to my pleasant surprise, that I am well suited to lead a team through high-risk and challenging situations. The recent pandemic and the related work limitations empowered my navigation and managerial skills, showing how I go above and beyond my regular duties in uncertain times. When the company I worked for was in a very difficult financial situation, I took on the role of the CTO and led the company to product commercialisation. To achieve the success, I built a clear strategic roadmap, where the risks were evaluated and mitigated, and the measure of success was well defined and maximised. I overcame all obstacles and solved all company’s problems at the time thanks to strategic and managerial thinking, combined with great care to detail.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

When I worked in academia, I knew I had good ideas and solutions, but I was lacking support and confidence in developing my potential. I was a young mother with unlimited scientific ambition. I wish the younger me would have had more confidence and belief in her strengths and knowledge and she would have known that she will achieve big things in science. At the same time, I wish she would have known to take more pleasure from her everyday work, projects and discoveries, as integral part of the success. I wish the younger me would have had more support in stepping back into academia after a maternity break. I wish she would have known that this support is for her to develop her scientific potential.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

One of the best things about working in STEM is the ability to build new products that are valuable, safe and important to all of us. I love the fact, that I can control the product development, because I understand the underlying molecular interactions that make them work. I feel thankful I can create revolutionary technologies, that ensure our world is a better place.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

Reach high, to the stars, standing up brave on the path to your dreams. Be curious and pragmatic in your discoveries. Be flexible and understanding to other opinions and ideas, realistic and collaborative, but secure a good position early in your carrier through networking and mentoring programmes. Never be afraid to ask for help and support.

INSPIRATION

Maria Sklodowska-Curie