Ivan Fong, Phd
Field Application Scientist
I build strong working relationships with customers and advise them on how to best use SPT Labtech products to achieve their scientific goals. I am primarily responsible for our chameleon instrument. This instrument encompasses the latest technologies in cryoEM grid preparation, which have the potential to tackle preferential orientation problems and air water interface denaturation issues when making cryoEM grids. This instrument will make it easier for scientists to overcome the technical hurdles in cryoEM to find answers to their scientific questions.
I also gather user feedback to help our Research and Development Team improve instrument design and reduce bottlenecks. Additionally, I test run new instrument designs under development, as well as stay up-to-date on the latest research trends to help guide future product development.
Scientific knowledge is a given in my job role. However, there are also a number of core competencies that are critical to success. An absolute must-have is good communication skills. Active listening, observing, empathizing and talking with customers are all essential to providing an exceptional experience centered and trust and transparency.
I am part of a team of Field Applications Scientists (FAS).
Our department of FASs play a fundamental role in ensuring customers get the most out of their instrument outputs and workflows. We first and foremost provide scientific advice and assist laboratory teams in the installation of instruments and design of scientific applications.
The team are PhD-level scientists, specializing in certain areas ranging from genomics to structural biology. The breadth of a FAS team’s training and expertise is a fantastic benefit to our customers as their support gives them confidence to pursue innovative ideas.
We are involved in the very early interactions of the purchasing process, through to product demonstration, installation and ongoing usage and optimization of SPT instruments.
Best parts of the job
I enjoy the variety the job role brings. I have all kinds of daily tasks ranging from technical to communicative. I am always searching for opportunities to expand my knowledge through meeting new scientists and love to work collaboratively with customers.
I was part of a team that determined a very large and complex protein structure called the MS-ring in bacterial flagella. I developed the protein expression and purification procedures and also optimized the cryoEM grid preparation. The protein complex was quite fragile and could only be obtained in small quantities. It also had preferential orientation on cryoEM grids, a common problem encountered in cryoEM grid preparation. We found that crosslinking the protein complex helped to mitigate preferential orientation, in addition to improving sample stability. We additionally used cryoEM grids coated with a graphene oxide layer to concentrate the sample on the grid to overcome the limited availability of protein samples. We eventually published this paper in Nature Microbiology.
I would like to continue to help scientists overcome roadblocks in their research work and drive efficiency in their labs so they can focus on making ground breaking discoveries.
I became fascinated by the idea of understanding life at the atomic scale as an undergraduate student. Moreover, research tools used in structural biology research tend to be much more exotic and expensive which, again, is one of the main reasons why it fascinates me. I went on to complete a PhD at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and then completed a post doctorate at the University of Oxford before taking my position as an Application Scientist at SPT Labtech.
Outside of work
Outside of work, I enjoy street/portrait photography. Structural biology encompasses capturing pictures of protein molecules to understand how they function at a molecular scale. I see photography as an extension of what I do professionally, as a scientist. I am still taking pictures now, but of places and people, not proteins!