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BioLizard PhD student develops a new platform in his first year: proBiome

What did August 2021 mean for you? Probably nothing out of the ordinary. For Steff Taelman, it’s a bit different. It didn’t only mark his first anniversary as a BioLizard employee. In that first year, he also had the lead in creating a new BioLizard platform – proBiome. Today he’s putting down the last pieces of the puzzle.

Moments like this pass too quickly if you don’t stand still for a moment and look back on what happened. That’s why we sat down with Steff to let him share his experiences of the past year.

Being a PhD student and working at a company at the same time. A tough combination?

“You’d say it’s a tough combination,” Steff tells us, “but it’s actually quite beneficial.”

“I’m in contact with a lot of academics. They’re all very invested in their research, and truth be told: they’re doing some really cool projects. The problem is, I sometimes get the feeling that some PhD’s won’t impact the industry that much.”

We asked Steff what the big difference is with his situation.

“Well, by being in contact with real clients and real projects, I get a better sense of what is going on in the industry and what is actually needed. I can then use these insights and details when I’m working on my PhD. This way, I hope to prevent getting lost in an academic rabbit hole.”

“A small example is the type of data that is actually being used. From an academic perspective, this turned out to be slightly different than in the industry. By using types of data the industry uses in my PhD, I’m hoping to create a more relevant impact that will have an immediate added value.”

How did you experience your first year at BioLizard?

“That’s a great question since I talk about this with my friends and family a lot.”

“For me, it’s the range of experts that are working at BioLizard. You’ve got data engineers, biologists, bioinformaticians, software developers and machine learning experts. And I learn so much from them. The multidisciplinary nature of the company creates a situation where you can take things from other fields and apply them to your own research.”

Steff continues: “At the start, I thought it was just a promise, but it turned out to be a big internal focus. Everyone is constantly there for each other: always ready to help and improve. I’ve learned more in my year here than I’ve learned in my whole master’s education.”

“But, if you want a more superficial answer: I really like the offices. At the university, I have a desk too. It’s in a huge room with 30 desks and there was this odd smell I can’t describe. BioLizard on the other hand has a wonderful location where you love to be and work.”

The past year you’ve been developing a platform: proBiome. It creates an interactive data output, tell us about it.

“Yeah of course!”

So, the past year I’ve worked on creating a solid pipeline and writing code to gather different types of data and results from the analysis. All this information gets bundled into one interactive report. The client can go through results, ask for different types of output, zoom in on charts,… It’s built in a way that a client – who’s likely to have a more biological background – can gather their own insights from our analysis.”

Where can you find the proBiome platform?

The platform is in its last stages of development. It will be available end of November 2021. We’re looking forward to presenting results to our partners with the platform. Want to be the first to use proBiome to investigate your own microbiome results? Notify me!

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