Employee Spotlight: Dr Allen Bellew

Ionoptika is very proud of its skilled and dedicated staff, who together with our loyal users make up our global community. In our ongoing series, we shine the spotlight on one of our talented colleagues each month to introduce you to some of the people behind Ionoptika.

employee spotlight photo allen

Our latest spotlight focuses on Dr Allen Bellew, our Marketing & Applications Manager. You can find Allen giving talks or manning the booth for Ionoptika at trade shows and exhibits around the world. We asked Allen for an insight into his time at Ionoptika.

Why did you decide to study science when you were at school or university?

I’ve loved science ever since I was young and always wanted to be involved in discovering something new about the world. I did as many science subjects as I could at school and always knew that’s what I would study at university. I ended up doing Physics and Chemistry at Trinity College Dublin – I could never decide which discipline was my favourite, so finding a course that did both was perfect for me.

How long have you worked at Ionoptika and what career path brought you to us?

I joined Ionoptika as a Test Engineer in 2016 and have worked in several roles since then including Technical Sales. Before joining Ionoptika I got my PhD in Nanoscience from Trinity College Dublin. I then worked as staff in the Advanced Microscopy Lab at the University managing their Helium Ion Microscope and lithography facilities. I find that having that background as a user of this type of equipment helps me to connect with the needs of our customers and deliver the best service for them.

Our customers are involved in so many different areas of research, from ground-breaking cancer research to building quantum computers, and they are all at the top of their game…

What do you enjoy most about working at Ionoptika?

I think the variety of applications of our products is what makes the job so exciting. Our customers are involved in so many different areas of research, from ground-breaking cancer research to building quantum computers, and they are all at the top of their game. So we have to try and keep up with them, which can be challenging at times, but you also learn so much. It’s also really fulfilling to know that you’ve played a role in helping these amazing scientists to expand their research capabilities and potentially make life-changing discoveries.

Can you describe a typical day working at Ionoptika (normally, not in the middle of a pandemic!)

I know it’s a cliché, but every day really is different. One day I can be analysing samples on the J105 SIMS for a potential customer, and the next I might be putting together marketing material for an upcoming conference or writing content for our website. We have a small team here, so we have to be very dynamic. Everyone works really hard for each other, which is great.

What has been your best memory or achievement in your working life?

I think my best memory so far would be the SIMS conference in Kyoto in 2019. We worked hard in the build-up, and it was just a great conference and such an amazing city. The food was possibly the highlight for me! One of the great perks of the job is getting to travel all around the world and see some amazing places, but that one takes the cake. The Rugby World Cup was also on in Japan at the same time – so that worked out well!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I have a passion for food and love to cook. At the moment I’m learning the art of stir fry. I also love strength sports and can usually be found in the gym, or at home watching rugby.

Have you been doing anything interesting/different/new to cope with the pandemic?

I am enjoying speciality coffee a lot lately. I’ve been trying all different styles of brewing and coffees from different parts of the world. I would highly recommend naturally processed coffees for anyone who hasn’t tried them – lots of tropical fruit notes – so delicious!

What are you looking forward to most once the Covid restrictions have eased?

We had to postpone our wedding because of lockdown, so that’s the main focus right now. We’re having it back home in Ireland and hopefully, we can have a massive party once this is all over!


Interested in becoming part of our team? Visit our Careers page.

Employee Spotlight: Kate McHardy – Head of Sales

Ionoptika is very proud of its skilled and dedicated staff, who together with our loyal users make up our global community. Our new regular post will shine the spotlight on some of the people who make up Ionoptika!

This week’s spotlight focuses on Ionoptika’s Head of Sales, Kate McHardy. Kate joined Ionoptika in 2019, so is still a relative newcomer to the team. We asked her what she makes of life at Ionoptika so far!

How long have you worked at Ionoptika and what career path brought you to us?

I joined Ionoptika in April 2019, having spent the previous 17 years working in a similar role at a company called Oxford Cryosystems, specialising in cooling devices and cryostats, mainly for X-ray crystallography applications. Like Ionoptika, Oxford Cryosystems was a small yet specialist research and engineering company.  I loved my time there and still have many friends at the company, but after 17 years, felt it was time for a change!

What do you enjoy most about working at Ionoptika?

One of the most exciting things about Ionoptika for me is the important applications that our instruments can be used for. Our J105 SIMS, for example, has been used as a research tool for understanding skin cancer and breast cancer; or demonstrating the presence of cocaine metabolites in fingerprints. It is quite inspiring to meet the researchers working in such important areas, and to feel that the instruments we develop and offer can add such value to these important fields.

I have been involved in international sales and marketing for many years now, and one of my favourite parts of the role is getting out to see customers at their labs to appreciate the work they are doing and attending conferences and exhibitions. So this year, the restrictions on international travel have been rather frustrating!

We have a very talented team at Ionoptika, working on some really diverse R&D projects, so there is no shortage of work for the Sales & Marketing team, as we work out how to commercialise these new developments.

What would a typical day look like for you working in Sales?

In any other year, our Sales & Marketing team attend a lot of conferences and exhibitions. So a typical day might involve preparing for those coming up, attending the meetings, both as a delegate and exhibitor, meeting existing and potential new customers, or following up on discussions we have previously had. This year, this has been replaced with a lot of planning for the future and Zoom meetings!

However, one of the great things about working for Ionoptika, is that no day is the same; and this year, working from home, that’s saying a lot! We have a very talented team at Ionoptika, working on some really diverse R&D projects, so there is no shortage of work for the Sales & Marketing team, as we work out how to commercialise these new developments.

What has been your best memory or achievement in your time at Ionoptika?

In the 18 months of my time with Ionoptika, unfortunately half of that time has been during the Covid-19 pandemic! However my first 9 months with the company was extremely busy and I was lucky enough to attend the SIMS 22 conference in Kyoto, which really allowed me to meet a lot of our customers and collaborators.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I have only lived on the South Coast for 18 months now, so I am really enjoying getting out walking and exploring the beautiful local area. I do have a passion for travel, but this year, that has necessarily had to be a bit closer to home!

Have you been doing anything interesting/different/new to cope with the lockdown?

Lots of gardening during the summer and lots of walking now!

What are you looking forward to most once the lockdown is over?

At the moment, our region’s restrictions mean we can’t meet other households, so I am most looking forward to meeting up with friends again and being a bit more social. And overseas travel of course, I certainly miss that!


Interested in becoming part of our team? Visit our Careers page.

Employee Spotlight: Gavyn Trowbridge

Ionoptika is very proud of its skilled and dedicated staff, who together with our loyal users make up our global community. In our ongoing series, we shine the spotlight on one of our talented colleagues each month to introduce you to some of the people behind Ionoptika.

This month we move away from new hires to what will be a very familiar face to many of our customers around the world, Senior Test & Service Engineer, Gavyn Trowbridge. Gavyn is one of Ionoptika’s longest serving employees, joining the company in 2004, and today he manages our customer installations and service work around the world. We asked Gavyn for an insight into his time at Ionoptika.

"...knowing that the whole team has had a part to play in the completion of the project, and knowing I am inserting the final piece of the puzzle, whilst installing it, brings a certain joy that can't be explained" - Gavyn Trowbridge, Senior Test & Service Engineer

How long have you worked at Ionoptika and what career path brought you to us?

I joined Ionoptika in Feb 2004, having previously worked in various roles in the manufacturing sector including a PCB factory, high power micro generators, up to 100kW of power from gas turbines. I self-educated through night school and day release. The role at Ionoptika suited me because I have always been interested in taking things apart, seeing how they work, and putting them back together.

What do you enjoy most about working at Ionoptika?

I appreciate the diverse range of skills and experience we have in the factory team, and the toys are pretty cool too. We get paid to play with toys!!

But the prospect that we may be creating something that could change the world for the better is a real buzz; a pharmaceutical breakthrough? A medical research breakthrough? New things never seen before in the field?

You never know what research, or researchers you may meet in the field on a customer site. The projects that our customers work on are each fascinating in their own way!

My favourite part of the role is the final installation of the instruments: knowing that the whole team has had a part to play in the completion of the project, and knowing I am inserting the final piece of the puzzle, whilst installing it, brings a certain joy that can’t be explained.

Can you describe a typical day working at Ionoptika (normally, not in the lockdown!)

There’s never a dull moment in my day and no such thing as a typical day. One day I may be building a prototype, another fixing something, and another testing a customer system. Or just general helping of others with my long-term experience?  I also usually spend quite a lot of time on customer sites around the world.

What has been your best memory or achievement during your time at Ionoptika?

The installation of the J105 instruments is quite exciting. You never know where one might be going and it’s a real buzz to travel to global customer sites to install these systems.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Gaming, music, walking, meditation, the great outdoors. Often meditating in places of beauty.

Have you been doing anything interesting/different/new to cope with the lockdown?

Trying to stay sane!!! Making the most of not being away and making home improvements.

What are you looking forward to most once the lockdown is over?

Enjoying the great outdoors more, exploring new places. This year’s holiday was going to be an eastern European adventure, taking in 4 countries, but this is now postponed until next year!


Interested in becoming part of our team? Visit our Careers page.

Employee Spotlight: Dr Michal Ryszka

As a small company, Ionoptika is very proud of its skilled and dedicated staff, who together with our loyal users make up our global community. So each month we will be putting the spotlight on one of our talented colleagues to introduce you to some of the people behind Ionoptika.

This month, continuing the theme of new hires, we introduce Dr. Michal Ryszka, who joined Ionoptika in 2019. Michal gained his experience during postdocs in both France and the USA before joining Ionoptika as Development Engineer with special responsibility for Ionoptika’s J105 SIMS instrument.

We asked Michal for some insight into the pivotal points in his career:

Michal quotation

Why did you decide to study science when you were at school or university?

I was always interested in how things work, both in terms of science and technology, so when I was in high school and it came down to choosing what I want to study at University it was really an easy choice. I went for applied physics at Gdansk University of Technology. I got interested in atomic and molecular physics, so after getting a degree in science and engineering I went for a PhD at the Open University in the UK in Chemical Physics.

What do you enjoy most about working at Ionoptika?

One of the most exciting parts of my job is being involved in the development of a cutting-edge technology.  Knowing how many applications benefit from our products is really motivating!

Can you describe a typical day working at Ionoptika (normally, not during the lockdown!)

I spend most of my time running ion simulations and analysing results for a future development project. I am also involved in development projects run by other colleagues. I can be also found with my hands on the J’s currently being built, tweaking and tuning.

What has been your best memory or achievement in your career?

My best memory is of the day when I finally recorded first hydrated DNA base cluster ions in an experimental setup I had been developing for my PhD project.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Whenever the weather allows it, I like mounting biking. I also like reading books and playing video games.

Have you been doing anything interesting/different/new to cope with the lockdown?

I am trying to stay fit by riding on my turbo trainer. I have also been doing lots of research for a project I am looking forward to after the lockdown is over.

What are you looking forward to most once the lockdown is over?

I’m planning to buy a van and turn it into a campervan, then take it for mountain biking trips around the UK and the continent.


You can catch up with Michal and the rest of the Ionoptika team at various conferences throughout the year. Interested in becoming part of our team? Visit our Careers page.

Employee Spotlight: Dr Naoko Sano

As a small company, Ionoptika is very proud of its skilled and dedicated staff, who together with our loyal users make up our global community. So each month we will be putting the spotlight on one of our talented colleagues to introduce you to some of the people behind Ionoptika.

The first to be in the spotlight is one of most recent hires, Dr Naoko Sano, our new Applications Scientist. We asked Naoko about her career and what she enjoys about working at Ionoptika.

Employee spotlight - quote

Where were you before you started at Ionoptika?

I joined Ionoptika from Nara Women’s University in Japan where I was Associate Professor in textile science.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Most days I spend my time working on new applications and processing SIMS data. At lunch time I sometimes like to go for a walk with friends from the office, which really helps me refresh. The rest of the time I can be found running samples on the J105 ToF SIMS instrument for existing and potential customers. I’m also involved in testing new software and providing feedback back to the software team.

What do you love most about your job?

One of the most exciting parts of my job is the great variety of applications that I’m involved in, from investigating neurotransmitters in brain tissue, to analysing the frictional properties of lubricants. This makes the job of Application Scientist immensely challenging but hugely rewarding!

Why did you decide to study science when you were at school or university?

A working experience with the Surface Analysis group at NPL in 2006-7 gave a great impact to me in a good way and I really enjoyed UK/London life whilst I was there. Fortunately, around the end of the working experience, Prof. John F. Watts offered a PhD studentship, so I decided to study surface science in University of Surrey, which was my big turning point in my life.

What’s it like working at Ionoptika?

All colleagues here in Ionoptika are friendly, so I enjoy chatting with them at the office. So I miss it very much because of the current WFH situation…

What has been your best memory or achievement in your career?

It would be my first poster award in SIMS-XVII. On the day for the award ceremony, I was late to get to the venue, because I didn’t care for the ceremony at all (a naughty student!). When I got into the venue and tried to find a space to sit, the chairman (coincidentally it was John, my supervisor) on the stage, said ‘Naoko, you are there!’. Everybody turned back and looked at me. I was so proud of my work on the stage, but I felt so embarrassed as well…

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Aromatherapy and reading books.

Have you been doing anything interesting/different/new to cope with the lockdown?

I’ve started online yoga lessons. I still prefer to do it in an actual studio with people, but online yoga class works at least. 

What are you looking forward to most once the lockdown is over?

Travel to see my family and friends all over the world. Miss you all very much!


You can catch up with Naoko and the rest of the Ionoptika team at various conferences throughout the year. Interested in becoming part of our team? Visit our Careers page.