Blog Post

May 18, 2022

Meet Jan Gattiker - CyanoGuards’ Lab Assistant

To kick-off, could you tell us a bit about your career background and current role?

I have a background in Chemistry and Biochemistry. I started my apprenticeship with Novartis, and I worked there for three years. It’s there that I gained most of my experience. After that, I started my bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, and currently, I am pursuing a master’s degree in the Biochemistry field as well. 

At CyanoGuard, I am working as a Lab Assistant. I am CyanoGuard’s main synthetic chemist, and I am responsible for the synthesis process. I am the person behind the chemical reactions of our product, which are necessary to happen prior to the activation of our product. I won’t bother you with too many details, but I make sure that our product reacts properly when in contact with cyanide.

You’re also currently studying; how does that complement your work at CyanoGuard?

I am always able to implement my previously gained knowledge, after all, I am working as a chemist at CyanoGuard. My expertise is within the Biochemistry field, but in my previous job at Novartis I worked within the organic chemistry field, and it helped me a lot with my current role. 

What advice do you have for students who are looking to balance work and studies?

I find it quite easy to balance my work and studies. I am working 20% of the time and I am studying full time. I have my classes four days a week and one day off, so usually, on my day “off” I am working at CyanoGuard. That allows me to balance my studies and work. Moreover, when I have exams, everybody is very understanding, and I am able to take a week off to study. 

What excites you most about CyanoGuard's technology?

I am fascinated with our product and our technology. Cyanide is a very dangerous substance, and our product detects cyanide. I am not sure if the people who handle it are always aware of the danger. Our monitoring solution is very easy to use, and it is very practical. It doesn’t require the use of any complicated chemical processing as the titration method does. Moreover, it can help people detect cyanide in time and hopefully increase users’ and the whole community’s safety.

How do you ensure you follow industry standards and safety regulations?

I am working directly with cyanide and acid, and this can be very dangerous. First, I always wear my standard PPE, work in a closed fume-hood and carry a cyanide detector. It is an alarm that is set off in case the air contains gaseous cyanide. I also never work with cyanide and acid at the same time. These two substances together are very acutely toxic. Additionally, I always have a basic solution next to me. I clean all the equipment I have used with it to make sure all is safe and non-toxic for me or anyone else in the lab. 

How have you seen CyanoGuard change since your time here?

CyanoGuard has changed a lot, and our whole process evolved. In the beginning, we were only able to produce one cartridge at a time. Now, our whole process has accelerated and parallelized. We have also moved from Wädenswil to Zurich, and our laboratory has got a lot bigger. This improved our whole production and gave a new spirit and motivation to our team. It is always great to see your company grow, especially when you know you contributed to its growth. 

What has one of your most outstanding achievements been?

We have been able to optimize our main synthesis process beyond what the scientific literature reported as the absolute maximum yield. We have increased the maximum synthesis yield by over 25%, exceeding what well-known chemistry professors reported as possible. I have worked on the synthesis optimization together with Livio our Development and Production Engineer. 

What surprised you the most?

If I compare working at CyanoGuard with my previous jobs, the biggest surprise has been to learn what the whole production process looks like. Previously, I only worked on a specific chemical process and got told when it needs to be done, I didn’t know how they used it in the production phase. Here at CyanoGuard, I can finally see and understand what the whole production process looks like. It allows me to see the bigger picture. Before working here, I never thought about some of the issues my team as a whole has to solve.

What’s one thing you’re learning right now?

I am learning a lot about production management. I didn’t know too much about the whole production procedure and the logistics or even just the packing process. These were all the challenges that hadn’t occurred to me before. Now, I am learning more and more about all the different steps of the production process and how my team always manages to overcome these challenges. Essentially, thinking outside the box when facing unexpected challenges has been key learning at CyanoGuard.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about your position?

Chemistry is magic. 🧙‍

I can promise you it’s not magic; it all makes sense, and it can be (usually) scientifically explained.  😏

What quote do you like to live by?

“Live in the moment!”

I am currently very happy with my life. My studies and my work both give me a lot of pleasure. I moved away from my parents at the age of 15 for my studies, and I started to be very independent quite early. During my studies, I had the best time of my life with my close friends, but I didn’t know to appreciate it. Therefore, I have decided to focus more on my current happiness, appreciate what I have now and not wait for something better to happen tomorrow.

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