Scientist Spotlight, 3rd Edition, June 2014
From Our Field…
Scientist Spotlight: Bartoz Koszowski, PhD
In this third installment of the Scientist Spotlight, we sought to provide insight from a successful, junior scientist in our field. As you will see below, Dr. Bartosz Koszowski’s perspective is not only that of a junior scientist but also of one in industry. Dr. Koszowski earned his Pharm.D. (2007) and Ph.D. in Toxicology and Pharmacology (2011) from the Medical University of Silesia, Poland. In 2013, he joined Battelle’s Health and Analytics. Dr. Koszowski has also over 5 years of experience as a Team Leader managing sizeable teams with a proven track record in people and business management in the pharmaceutical industry. Prior to joining Battelle, Dr. Koszowski worked on the development of new analytical methods of chromatographic determination of markers of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) exposure in main- and side-stream smoke and in indoor air. As a member of Battelle’s Human Exposure Assessment Laboratory (HEAL), Dr. Koszowski currently provides scientific guidance and clinical oversight on tobacco projects related to product use, as well as topographical measures and biomarkers of tobacco. At Battelle, he has been involved in nearly all aspects of the scientific enterprise and continues to be productive in publishing his important research findings.
1. Why did you choose to become a scientist?
I was always interested in science and how things work. When I was a kid, my favorite thing to read was the Scientific American magazine. In high school I was really interested in chemistry. My school had a fantastic laboratory and I spent hours there preparing myself for chemistry competitions. At the end of high school I got an internship in a laboratory of organic chemistry focused on synthesis of drugs for industry. I started working with real scientists and realized I wanted to do similar things in my career.
2. What are your current research interests?
In 2013 I moved from Poland to the United States and joined Battelle’s Human Exposure Assessment Laboratory (HEAL) in Baltimore, MD. There I have the opportunity to work with renowned specialists with expertise in various fields. My current research interests are focused on how people use tobacco products and how various factors (user’s environment and dependence, familiarity with the product or effectiveness of the product to deliver nicotine and satisfy craving) influence use behaviors. I currently provide scientific guidance and clinical oversight on HEAL tobacco projects related to product use as well as topographical measures and biomarkers of tobacco. Currently I serve as the Senior Scientist on an FDA CTP-funded study on Dependence Behaviors and Nicotine Pharmacokinetics Associated with blu Electronic Cigarettes in Current Users. I also have grant application related to e-cigarette use under review by the NIH entitled Constructing and Evaluating the New E-Cigarette Microprocessor Vaping Recorder to develop and clinically evaluate a modified e-cigarette that can record vaping behavior in the laboratory and in the field. I am also interested in transitions between tobacco products and multiple product use.
3. How have your research interests evolved over the course of your career?
I have been working on scientific projects related to tobacco since 2003 and my research interests have evolved quite dynamically. As a chemist-at-heart at the beginning of my scientific career I was mostly interested in tobacco smoke composition and tobacco products emissions. One of my first projects was the development of new analytical methods of determination of markers of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) exposure in main- and side-stream smoke and in indoor air. Then I studied exposure to respirable suspended particles and carbon monoxide from second-hand tobacco smoke in naturalistic environments (e.g. pubs and smoking topography and yields of toxic agents in tobacco smoke generated in various smoking conditions). Working in an analytical chemistry laboratory gave me a strong understanding of tobacco smoke composition and the potential impact of that exposure on humans as well as health implications. Since 2007 I have been working with human participants trying to characterize use behaviors and understand biomarkers of exposure. Our tobacco research projects at Battelle are focused on contributing to regulatory efforts and informing public health about the real effects of tobacco use.
4. What do you view as the main challenges for your field? From your perspective, what do you view will be the next biggest breakthrough(s)?
I think the biggest challenge to clinical tobacco use behavior studies is to characterize different groups of tobacco product users. We have hundreds tobacco products available on the market in the US, and new ones appearing almost every day. Use patterns evolve very fast when new products are introduced. The best example is the electronic cigarette - use of which has increased dramatically over the past 5 years. During this time, e-cigarettes evolved from very simple and quite inefficient nicotine delivery tools to sophisticated devices, delivering similar doses of nicotine as traditional tobacco products as recent studies show. A user can control nicotine concentration in vapors by manipulating coil voltage, use different types of tanks and vaporizers, etc. Today, we do not have well validated tools to characterize nicotine dependence in people using two or more products. Taken together I believe the biggest breakthrough would be introducing methods that precisely capture patterns of tobacco products use outside laboratory. One of the most interesting approaches to collect data out of lab on use behavior and influence of environment is using mobile devices and microchip technologies. I think the most interesting things are ahead.
5. Why did you choose to pursue a career in industry as opposed to academia? Based on your experiences, what are the pros and cons of this career decision?
Working for Battelle gives me an opportunity to look at science from a different perspective. By supporting both grants and contracts we work hard to satisfy the needs of our clients and deliver high quality results on time and provide them with critical data. However, even though the environment is different, the main aim is still the same at the end of the day - to help inform the scientific community, to understand the impact of tobacco products on humans, and to contribute to regulatory efforts to ultimately decrease tobacco use prevalence. At Battelle I still have the opportunity to apply for NIH/FDA-CTP grants as well as take part in vivacious scientific discussions across research groups. I also have the opportunity to work closely with young and creative interns since Battelle host students from Pharmacy schools at the University of Maryland and the Notre Dame of Maryland University during their rotation. Taken together Battelle gives me the opportunity to develop my business interests while still being involved in great science.
6. Have you achieved a balance between work and personal priorities? How do you prioritize work and non-work activities?
I think I have. I have been working a lot recently, sometimes on multiple tasks at the same time with very short turnover. However, the best thing that may happen in your life is when your job is your passion and your coworkers are your friends. I definitely was lucky to get these two things where I am at this moment. I also cannot complain about a routine since I am involved in many projects and serving multiple roles. Nevertheless, I try to balance work and personal life. I am very active. My passion are sports and photography. I live close enough to the office to bike or walk every morning. I also run and do winter sports. During weekends I try escape from the city or do road trips around Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
7. What strategies have you found to be most beneficial for managing all of your commitments?
The first strategy I always use is prioritizing my everyday tasks. Some of them are both important and urgent and they always come first. I also found out that flexibility is an important factor when you have a lot of commitments at the same time. I like working under pressure. I feel I am more effective when a lot of things happen. My golden rule is to answer all e-mails and requests as soon as possible. It improves not only my workflow but also allows other people I collaborate with to move forward with their tasks.
8. What is the best advice that you ever received from one of your mentors?
I think the best advice I have ever got was to “keep things simple” - whenever possible, use clear language and keep things short. This rule is not only valuable in science (especially in writing grant/contract proposals and publications) but also in everyday life.
9. What advice would you have for postdoctoral trainees seeking to transition into industry?
I was involved in work for the pharmaceutical industry from my early years at the university, first as intern than a consultant in quality control and quality management and finally for three years as a manager of a sizable team. In the industry the priorities are different: business goals always come first. My advice would be to think of what really interests you and how your transition from academia to the industry will impact your ability to do researcher initiated science and publish the data.
10. What career choices do you feel have been the most beneficial to result in your success as a younger investigator?
The biggest career and life change I have ever made was the decision to move from Europe to the United States and start working at Battelle. It already pays off. In my new position I learn a lot every day and meet new and interesting people. I am also involved in extraordinary research projects that help to inform FDA’s tobacco regulatory efforts as well as other governmental institutions to make recommendations that align with the mission to reduce tobacco use or eliminate exposure to secondhand emissions.
11. What do you foresee as your main career milestones that you hope to achieve over the next 5-10 years?
Interacting with both great scientists and business managers gives me huge potential to develop my skills. I hope the Battelle’s Health and Analytics will continue growing and I will be involved in increasing volume of projects across the whole organization. I am also excited to start working with new external partners from both academia and government.