Career Tails

Behind My Day as a Laboratory Scientist

What was your path to Purina – what did you do career-wise prior to working here?

I was a graduate student in biotechnologies in France – my home country. My first internship was at the Nestlé Purina Research Center as a laboratory technician in St Louis, MO. I loved it so much there that I made sure with my school director that I could go back for my most important internship, e.g. the one validating my Master’s degree.

What is your favorite part about working at Nestlé Purina?

The puppy break! My colleagues bring their dogs to work, often starting when they are puppies, and it is awesome to see them grow up into the best office-friendly dogs ever! It is also a good reminder throughout the day of whom you are actually doing research for…

Describe your job and main responsibilities.

I am part of a research laboratory specialized in molecular nutrition and immunology, meaning we study how nutrition is beneficial to pets’ health. All of our research is non-invasive and harmless for cats or dogs. My current role is at the interface of the laboratory work and of the researchers. That gives me the opportunity to participate in many aspects of research, such as brainstorming, running analysis in the laboratory, interpreting data, or managing a project.

Tell us about some of the interesting projects you’re working on.

We do the kind of research that builds a lot of knowledge about pets, and that is often parallel to human nutrition research. For example, we are exploring the pets' gut microbiota – the community of bacteria that resides naturally in the digestive tract. We also look into canine and feline cytokines, which are little molecules used by the immune system to send messages locally and across the body. Even though some knowledge on the human side is applicable to pets, we always find something unique to cats or dogs, and I find that fascinating!

What is it like being behind the curtain of Purina products?

I feel like a visionary because we initiate research projects encompassing innovations that will be part of our daily lives ten years from now. The fun part is to see how an idea that seemed really unrealistic gains momentum and becomes the next big thing that everybody is excited about.

Describe the culture of our R&D department?

If you are self-motivated, passionate, and thorough, then the sky is the limit. We are also lucky to interact often with the other research teams. So we hear about innovative projects of every sort (packaging, treats, litter, engineering, etc.), and that gives us the opportunity for cross-functional collaborations.

You moved from France to the U.S. to work for Purina. What do you like most about living and working here?

St. Louis was my first experience of continental climate; every spring I am marveled by all the trees and plants flowering at the same time, I love swimming in the summer, fall is the perfect weather for a bonfire, and winter is quite a sight. In the end, that makes great stories and pictures to send back home!

Upon my first stay here, I immediately met people from around the U.S. and from around the world who came to work and live in St. Louis. And even better, the friendly and warm welcome of St. Louis natives have smoothed out the transition for us. Now it is my turn to make the newcomers feel welcomed and I connect them with all the things to do in the area.

In general, I am impressed by the wonderful communities that have built themselves in St. Louis, whether it is a neighborhood like Lafayette Square, charity organizations like the United Way, or the activities we have on campus at Purina like the photography club.


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