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Football image: Dziurek / Shutterstock.com. Other images courtesy of Giancarlo Basile.

Giancarlo Basile: Adjusting to Change in Laboratory Automation and Life

Discovering your strengths and what you most like to do – and then finding a professional position that fits both – can be a lifelong journey. SLAS member Giancarlo Basile has enjoyed the ride so far and shares some of the lessons he learned en route.

 

Giancarlo Basile is a sales specialist for Tecan, Cernusco Sul Naviglio, Italy, an active SLAS volunteer, crazy SSC Napoli fan, devoted husband and father of two children. He also makes a great pizza and is happily sharing his recipe with SLAS Electronic Laboratory Neighborhood readers!

His Work Journey

Fresh from his graduation from the University of Naples with a master of science degree in pharmaceutical biotechnology, Basile's first position was a research scientist at Tecnogen with responsibility for high-throughput screening (HTS) assay development, protein expression and purification.

"I worked at Tecnogen about 10 years in different fields ranging from molecular biology, drug discovery and laboratory automation," Basile says.

Seeking new challenges, Basile's next position involved a move to the United Kingdom where he joined Exelgen as a biologist in HTS assay development and validation for drug discovery. Unfortunately, the company closed within his first year there. Basile returned to Italy.

"The Exelgen close was very dramatic for me," he remembers. "I had a wife and a one-year-old child and no job. We had moved from Italy. Things change in life. You must be ready to adapt to change; you must be flexible. I thought about what was important in my life and what my experience was. I loved science and my experience was in robotics, so I was able to quickly change.

"I found a job with Hamilton Robotics. I was a customer of theirs and knew their automation platform," he notes. "So I accepted a position as an application specialist, but it was not what I was really looking for. I preferred a job more related to developing relationships."

Knowing that he excelled at – and enjoyed – working with customers to bridge the gap between science and available tools and applications, Basile looked further for a position where he could share those talents. That led him to his current sales specialist position at Tecan, where he is focused on laboratory automation and detection.

"I am responsible for customers throughout southern Italy – from Rome to Sicily – and I work with them from initial discussion and defining configuration up to presenting a final quote for the order," Basile notes.

Basile says it is exciting for him to combine his science knowledge and experience in laboratory activities with the Tecan product portfolio to help his customers achieve their goals.

"It is very important to speak the language of the customer," Basile stresses. "This is a very technical field and selling automation platforms and detection devices is not very easy. Often scientists do not readily understand how automation can be integrated to streamline their projects, and it is my job to help them see the possibilities. My technical background is mandatory.

"It is fun to learn about their projects and work with them to explore how laboratory automation can help solve issues and increase business for their companies," he continues. "With my background in laboratory automation, now as a sales specialist I can show them what is possible, what is not possible and even what is possible with a huge amount of money!"

Laboratory Automation in Italy

Basile says Italy, while not typically considered a big player in laboratory science and technology, has set its sites higher.

"Government is investing a huge amount of money for research and development in southern Italy, especially for automation, so there are a lot of interesting new projects in the works," he shares.

Basile is referring to Programma Operativo Nazionale Ricerca e Competitività (PON), or the National Operational Programme Research and Competitiveness, which promotes initiatives and projects in the fields of scientific research, industrial competitiveness and innovation in Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicily.

There is also a move by the government to ensure this development takes place equally from region to region. Basile states that historically the northern region of Italy has been more prominent in business and manufacturing ventures, while the southern region has been better known for tourism and cooking.

"This strategic decision to equalize business throughout the country is a good opportunity for someone like me who works in the southern region but also for the whole country of Italy," Basile offers.

He feels Tecan, as a leader in automation, liquid handling and detection, is a good company to be at during this time.

"A major part of our automation business is diagnostics, with cancer being a main focus," he shares.

Like many countries, Italy is experiencing the effects of the world's economic instability. President Enrico Giovannini of Istat (Istituto Nazionale di Statistica), an Italian public research organization, noted in May 2012 "there remains a large North-South divide which has widened during the recent years of crisis."

But the country pushes on. As Basile remarks, research and innovation is high among its national agencies for science, medicine and technology (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche), and moves are being made. In a 2010 report, European Commission data indicated that Italy was fourth (behind Germany, United Kingdom and France in institutional participation in research infrastructure projects funded by FP6 (Framework Programmes for Research, European Union). The European Commission shares some success stories in life sciences and health as a result of FP6.

Volunteering All He Can

Fueled by a desire to participate internationally in field of laboratory science and technology, Basile joined SLAS and jumped in wholeheartedly to share his talents with the Society.

"Giancarlo is a great and enthusiastic volunteer," states Robert M. Campbell, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of the Journal of Biomolecular Screening, who has worked with Basile on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Biomolecular Screening (JBS). "He regularly asks how he can help and his exceptional efforts were recognized when he was honored with JBS Reviewer Excellence Awards in 2011 and 2012." In 2011, Basile was named editor-in-chief of Molecular Biotechnology, a role that nicely complements his commitment to JBS.

"When I was with Tecnogen, I needed to keep in touch with molecular biology activities required in the drug discovery field and Molecular Biotechnology was an important journal for me to read," Basile explains. "I cared about the discovery process and wanted to learn all about technology in this field."

Basile asked Prof. John M. Walker, Molecular Biotechnology editor in the United Kingdom, if he could be a reviewer. Prof. Walker agreed, and Basile did not disappoint. In fact, after years of working with Basile and appreciating his talents and work ethic, Prof. Walker picked Basile to replace him as editor upon his retirement in 2011.

"I am very proud of this. It is not usual that a sales specialist holds this position on a publication," Basile states.

Basile has earned similar trust within SLAS. In addition to serving on the JBS Editorial Board, Basile critically reviews manuscripts for both JBS and the Journal of Laboratory Automation (JALA), serves on the SLAS Member Products and Services Advisory Committee, as an SLAS Innovation Award judge and on the SLAS2013 Tony B. Academic Travel Awards program selection committee, which just named 45 student delegates from 12 different countries to present their scientific achievements at SLAS2013, January 12-16, Orlando.

It is important to Basile to contribute his time and talent as a volunteer in SLAS and other organizations and, perhaps as a result, help other young scientists find their way. That may mean assigning additional reviewers to a manuscript before rejection so the writer can receive additional input (especially those that submit from underdeveloped countries), showing trust or support of a colleague or even moving chairs between session rooms at a European Laboratory Robotics Interest Group (ELRIG) meeting if that is the help that is needed. He has served on the ELRIG Drug Discovery committee since 2011.

Trust is a big issue for Basile.

"When I was moving in my career from being a research scientist to sales specialist, my manager Dario Fiorentino believed in me and gave me an opportunity," he shares. "I had a lot of technical background but I had no sales skills. In your life you meet people like Dario who trust you and give you an opportunity. Then you must demonstrate you were worthy of their trust. That meant a lot to me, and I hope to be able to give back to others I work with in a similar way."

Football, Family and Fun!

When Basile talks about those who have supported him in his young career, his wife jumps to the top of the list. They met while in school in 1996 and married eight years later in 2004.

"Manuela has been very important for my life," Basile says.

Basile gushes about her love and support, indicating handling the family changes that came about with his job changes, especially the move to and from the U.K. "With my job changes, we moved to four different flats in five years!"

The couple has two sons. Lorenzo is five and Andrea is three. The boys are excited that SLAS2013 is in Orlando, as the family will accompany Basile on his trip to the United States and spend some time in The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

"This will be the first opportunity for us to travel with the children, and Disney World is a nice way to start," Basile says. "The children like to explore and every day they discover new things. It is quite interesting as we can share experiences and talk about things like animals and places.

"Before the children, my wife and I traveled all over," he continues. "When the children arrived, we needed to make things more relaxing."

Evidently, the couple's previous trips to places ranging from Egypt to New Zealand and Istanbul to South Africa do not qualify as relaxing. The days of packing a backpack and hopping on a flight in a moment's notice no longer exist. What were Basile's favorite trips?

"It is hard to choose; they were all wonderful and so different than Europe," he declares. "I guess maybe Australia or Japan but maybe China or Alaska."

You can read about his journeys (if you can read Italian) – and see great photographs – at Basile's travel website.

A little less travel these past years has made more time for Basile's other favorite activities – following his hometown football team SSC Napoli and cooking, or more specifically, making the perfect pizza.

"I was born in Naples and have always been a SSC Napoli fan," he says with pride. "Although I always follow my home team's activities, this causes a bit of trouble locally since I now live so close to Rome!"

And his pizza passion? "All people from Naples love pizza and think they know how to make the perfect pizza," he laughs. "I will share my recipe with my SLAS colleagues but they will need ingredients from Naples to make it perfect. Especially be aware of that buffalo mozzarella!"

Giancarlo's Margherita with Mozzarella di Bufala Pizza

Ingredients for 4 people:

Olive oil 25 mL
Warm water 350 mL
Flour 750 mL
Salt 1 tbsp
Sugar 1/2 tbsp
1 package dry yeast
Tomato sauce
Mozzarella di bufala
Chopped fresh basil

In a large bowl add warm water, oil, sugar, salt and yeast; mix by hand for several minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Let it sit in a warm and dark place until it doubles in size (it takes around two hours). Preheat the oven to 400°F for 30 minutes. Flatten the dough by hand and top it with tomato sauce, olive oil, basil and mozzarella di bufala. Bake for 20 minutes.

November 5, 2012