Innovation and talent.
Living for the constants in life
Gabriela Fisch lives an ordinary life. In Graubünden, she concentrates on the main constants in her microcosm: her family, the outdoors and her job.
For three years, Gabriela Fisch commuted from St. Gallen to Zurich on a daily basis, from her parents’ house to the ETH. “I didn’t even have to change train,” she says, explaining her decision. It’s the small things that determine her life’s major paths. To describe Gabriela as an enthusiast would be a slight exaggeration. But it would also be wrong to say otherwise.
120 millimetres long, a 12-millimetre shaft diameter, one sensor head, jam-packed with electronics – the dimensions within which Gabriela operates in her work are negligible. The 27-year-old’s work at Hamilton in Bonaduz in Graubünden is dedicated to researching and developing new process sensors. “When I accepted this job, I had no idea what was in store for me.” What appeals to her most about it now is the interdisciplinary cooperation. For every project, there’s a different team, and each team is made up of members from different disciplines: chemists, physicists, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers. One thing that doesn’t change is the role Gabriela plays in all of these, where she applies her expertise as a mechanic. “If I were surrounded by mechanical engineers the whole time, I probably wouldn’t learn anything different.”
Some of the work done in teams includes the development of sensors for biopharmaceuticals. “The aim is to ensure that the desired active ingredient can be produced,” says Gabriela, breaking the aim of her work down into everyday language. In technical jargon: the sensors monitor all the critical parameters required to monitor bioprocesses in real time, including dissolved oxygen, pH value, cell density and conductivity. This makes the process controllable. It can take years to take the initial idea and implement it in practice. Until then, it’s all developing, testing, developing, testing – or “tinkering” as Gabriela calls it – until the initially centimetre-wide sensors measure no more than 12 millimetres.
According to Gabriela, it was pure coincidence that she ended up in her job. It was by chance that she went to a springboard event in the canton of Graubünden and a coincidence that she was drawn to Hamilton, which happened to have a position to fill. But in spite of all the coincidence, mechanical engineer Gabriela is nothing if not consistent. Even as a child, she was interested in the production business her father ran. Whenever it was Bring Your Child to Work Day, she would be there with him, and later on working there in the summer holidays. “The people there knew me by that point anyway.” Later, she opted to study maths and physics. Not out of a passion for those subjects, she stresses, although “there were very few women”, but certainly interest.
Her family brought a second constant into her life too: hiking in the Appenzell Alpstein range near her parents’ house. She still spends a lot of her time in the mountains with her family and her boyfriend. And once a year, she takes a trip with her former university colleagues: they walk for six or seven hours, spend a night in a mountain hut, eat good food together, and then go back down the next day with lots of laughs and aching muscles. “This year was the only year we were not able to find a date that worked for everyone,” says Gabriela.
Gabriela jumps in at the deep end every time a new project is on the cards at work. This could be, for instance, making her employer’s products cheaper and more reliable – or even taking over the leadership of a team at just 26 years of age, as was the case for Gabriela a year ago. “The role came as a surprise,” she says. But learning something new is where Gabriela feels most at home. When she accepted the managing role, she had one condition: “I wanted to keep developing at all costs.” Gabriela may be a pragmatist, but you cannot deny her enthusiasm.