Women in Science – Sabine Bongaerts

Know What You Don’t Know. Look Across

I want to know how the world works – a simple yet complex desire that drives my work in science. There is so much knowledge to be gained. But most important is what we choose to do with that knowledge. Bringing different thinking and perspectives together leads to solutions.

I started as a university researcher doing fundamental research in molecular biology and microbiology. In academia, your expertise tends to get increasingly specific, focused on a niche and far away from every-day life problems. One of the reasons why I came to Bayer was the opportunity for my scientific knowledge and passion to mean something. To work with a diverse team and apply our collective knowledge to make a difference is what inspires me.

As both a scientist and manager, I draw satisfaction from experimenting. I’m always looking for ways to grow not only our business but also individual team members. Throughout my academic and professional career, I’ve often been faced with challenges that are daunting at first. It is intimidating to try something that has never been done before. However, once I think through what I know, what I don’t know and how to close the gap, the solution starts to take shape: if you identify the different pieces that could contribute to a solution and bring the right teams together, the challenge becomes soluble.

Sabine Bongaerts
Sabine Bongaerts
Dr. Sabine Bongaerts,
Head of Drug Discovery Animal Health at Bayer

Solving complex problems requires new thinking and approaches. For example, our Animal Health team was looking for new solutions to treat animals against parasites. In thinking about how to address this challenge, we recognized that our Animal Health team expertise includes a deep understanding of what veterinarians and animals need, while our Bayer counterparts in Crop Science know how to tackle pests and our colleagues in Pharma know how to optimize a drug for mammals. Bringing in colleagues from Crop Science and Pharma for this parasite challenge, our cross-functional team took a different approach, applying the diverse expertise to uncover new molecules. Even though one third of the project team consisted of colleagues from Crop Science and Pharma, you would not be able to tell who was from which division; it was fun to see everyone discussing and challenging one another in new ways. Ultimately, this collaboration across Bayer brought different perspectives and specific knowledge together resulting in a successful solution with very promising work in dogs.

The great joy in science comes from discovering something new that has the potential to improve lives. You need to know what you don’t know. The next endeavor will be to make even better use of the accelerating scientific knowledge. Today there are tools and knowledge we could not have envisaged or dreamed about 10 years ago. I’m keen to leverage this huge external knowledge and the fantastic competencies inside and outside the company to find even better solutions. By looking at problems differently and discussing them openly in fruitful collaborations we can become, together, even more successful.

Trusting yourself enough to take chances leads us down ever more innovative paths and allows us to stay ahead of the curve in our fast-paced industry. Doing this together with others who offer different perspectives enables our success. Plus, it’s more fun when we get to share our passions.

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