If you are familiar with the pharmaceutical microbiology space, you have likely come across Tim Sandle, PhD., of Bio Products Laboratory. Dr. Sandle is a prolific writer and thought leader in the microbiology industry, as well as a longtime contributing editor of IVT's journals. We thank him for allowing us to ask him some questions regarding his education experiences, advice to writers, and more.
What is your current title and job description?
I work for a biopharmaceutical company where I’m Head of Microbiology, heading up a team of 40 people. This covers quality control microbiology (areas like environmental monitoring, sterility testing, microbial identification etc.), microbiological validation, investigation into out-of-limits results and site-wide sterility assurance and contamination control. I’m also a visiting tutor at the University of Manchester, where I teach a master’s degree in pharmaceutical microbiology (covering three of the eight course modules). Volunteer-wise I’m on the committee of the Pharmaceutical Microbiology Interest Group (Pharmig), and I also contribute science and health journalism to Digital Journal.
How long have you been in this position and in the microbiology industry?
I’ve been Head of Microbiology since 2002, although the job has broadened considerably over the years, and I've been tutoring at Manchester since 2006.
What has your involvement with IVT Network been like?
My involvement with IVT has been very interesting. It started with speaking at a conference in Dublin in 2003. In terms of writing, the opportunity has helped me to communicate out a number of good practice ideas and also to learn quite a bit myself along the way. One thing I try to do when writing for IVT is to balance theory and practice. To my mind there’s no value writing something highly theoretical and for the reader to wonder how the concepts can be put into practice; conversely it is important to understand why something might be done in a certain way, to understand what the background is.
A positive part of IVT is the big range of important subjects to be covered. Although my background is microbiology, I have extended the contamination control perspective in other areas. An example is an article I wrote for IVT about rouging inside water systems. I’ve also written about computerized systems and quality auditing.
People also respond well to the IVT articles and it is useful to receive comments from readers. This gives the network a ‘community’ feel.
Can you walk me through your educational experiences?
What did you find the most valuable?
My first degree is in Applied Biology. I also have a degree in political science. I undertook a Master’s degree in economics, with the final dissertation on work organization in the pharmaceutical sector. I did this part-time (and later on my science PhD.), which was a fairly intense ten year period.
What is your advice to people who want to begin publishing their work but are maybe a little too hesitant to start?
The trick is to start off with something small. The best approach depends on the field and subject matter. With pharmaceuticals and healthcare, writing on a new standard that has been published or describing a new method are good places to start, trying to sum up what the change is about. Much of it is similar to writing an essay at school: introduction, main section, and conclusion. In the introduction say what the article is about; the middle section discuss the subject (for a newish writer limiting this to three main points is a good way of structuring the body of the article); and then summarize at the end. And then proof read.
The subject needs to be something you’re interested in and you need to enjoy writing. Every style is different (varying from the formal to the informal) and there’s no right or wrong way: if you’ve communicated what you want, then it’s worked. The first article I wrote was about 20 years ago and it was about microbiology on the Internet (which, believe it or not, wasn’t in widespread use at the time!) surveying websites.
You are extremely active on social media. How can we connect with you?
Social media has been one of the biggest advancements in communication and it’s really taken off in the past five years. With science, articles and papers can be shared, commented on and reach a far greater audience than was ever possible in the past. I think has increased the knowledge scope and it is needed now more than ever to try to counteract the unfortunate rise in ‘fake news’ items and websites.
I use a variety of social media and the audiences who interact with these are often different. If you’d like to connect with me, then I’m on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/timsandle/); Twitter (@timsandle); Facebook (where I run a group called “Sandle’s Pharmaceutical Microbiology”); and there’s my blog, which has a new posting most days - it’s called Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (http://www.pharmamicroresources.com/). Please feel free to interact with me on any of these!
IVT’s 5th Annual Microbiology Week on June 14-16, 2017 offers attendees a two and a half days of interactive, customizable and hands-on training sessions covering critical topics in both sterile and non-environments.