Sep·er Mack·t·ah·bee - In the Iranian language of Farsi, the name “Sepehr” means sky.
“I think that the most important quality one can have is to truly want to be where one is. I want to make sure that the people around me genuinely enjoy what they do, are proud of their work, and are interested in or willing to make changes or adapt to them.” Sepehr said as he took a sip of his latte. Working at Fluxergy means using your knowledge and adaptability to create change for a better future. Sepehr Maktabi is a model example of this principle.
Sepehr Maktabi works in the Research and Development (R&D) department here at Fluxergy. Sepehr grew up in South-West Iran and has made many changes to be where he is today. When Sepehr was just ten years old, he and his family moved to Tehran, the capital of Iran. Eight years later, Sepehr began his undergraduate education at the Sharif University of Technology, where he attained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. In 2013, Sepehr moved to upstate New York to attend SUNY-Binghamton University to secure his Master's Degree and PhD in mechanical engineering. Four years into his studies at SUNY-Binghamton, Sepehr was sent to the University of Southern California for a collaborative program between the two universities. During his time in the program, he studied synthetic double membrane cell walls to develop a microfluidic chip – his life was legitimately under a microscope. In 2020, seven years after the beginning of his program, Sepehr graduated with a Master’s Degree and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. He went on to accept a Research and Development internship at Fluxergy, where he continues to work today.
As a Researcher and Developer at Fluxergy, what does your job entail?
I am mainly focused on Fluxergy’s test kits, also known as the platform. The idea of these test kits is to make a platform that is versatile. For example, if we were to only make test kits for one specific virus, once the wave of that virus passes over, there is no more use for that test kit, and it goes to waste. Making a versatile platform allows us to provide multiple types of test kits that provide the medical information to those who are sick.
One question people always ask me about the Fluxergy platform is, “Does the platform run one target or multiple targets?” Right now, it is one target; however, we are trying to develop a platform that runs multiple targets, meaning tests for multiple viruses, with only one sample. It saves both time and money. I have an analogy that Fluxergy’s President, Tej Patel, once told me: “This multi-modal platform idea should be thought of as having an iPhone; you can have multiple apps installed on an iPhone, and with our system, we want to be able to have multiple targets or viruses that can be tested for.”
Through your R&D position, how much collaboration do you have with your fellow team members?
It’s a mix. Sometimes I work independently when writing reports or releasing documents, but I must also constantly communicate and work with the production, quality, and regulatory departments. When communicating with these departments, I am always questioning whether a product needs to be inspected; if the products are expired or not; if there needs to be an increase in the stock of that item; from whom the inputs were bought from; if there is a possibility in lowering the cost of those inputs; and much more. It is very important that, from the engineering side, I know exactly what I want from all these departments, which is where communication comes into play. It is also very important that I keep my team members happy by making sure that the work I am doing is attainable for a robot to operate.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together. I choose to go far.” - Sepehr Maktabi
What is your favorite aspect of working in R&D at Fluxergy?
I have never felt bored of my work and enjoy the sense of not knowing what changes are coming next. I really like that there is always something new going on, but I also enjoy seeing the willingness and enthusiasm from not only my fellow team members but of everybody at Fluxergy. Since Fluxergy is the only company I have ever worked for, I am not sure if other companies act in a way where upper management is willing or interested in talking about new developments in their fields. I feel that at many other companies, these topics of conversation get shut down, which makes work much more boring and repetitive.
Would you describe Fluxergy as an innovative company?
Yes, it’s very progressive and research oriented. While we do have a certain vision for our future, we are also constantly making sure that we are being flexible and embracing the freedom to innovate. We don’t want to be boring; we want change to exist and to embrace the changes that come to us over time.
What significant moment(s) in your life led you to consider your field of work and decision to work at Fluxergy?
Ever since I was young, I really enjoyed making “stuff.” Over the years I realized that I was actually really good at making things because I pay close attention to details. Once college was around the corner and I had to think about what I wanted to study, the engineering field was what interested me as it involves making “stuff.”
When I was interning here at Fluxergy, one thing that attracted me was the fact that there was an opportunity to learn since the company focuses on research. I liked this about Fluxergy because it didn’t make me feel like I was at a “dead end.” I knew that in a research-based environment, change would exist. I also felt that through my research, if I were to come up with an idea, my coworkers would be willing to listen and work with me to potentially create a new development.
How would you describe the culture at Fluxergy?
Fluxergy is a very flexible and proactive company. I feel that the company does a great job of instilling a sense of community; however, we must continue to nurture that sense of community so that it doesn’t slip away. I really enjoy how we are constantly thinking of new ways to promote constructive criticism in a group setting. The reason I say this is because if I am presenting something in a meeting and one of my colleagues is confused by the information or sees a potential mistake, I want that colleague to speak up. Speaking up would benefit me in recognizing the mistake or evaluating how to better present my scientific findings, while also benefiting my colleague who would receive clarification.
The promotion of a flat hierarchy at Fluxergy was also very fascinating to me because I felt that, even as an intern, I was able to speak to anyone working at Fluxergy no matter their role.
I also have great relationships with my co-workers; I have friends both in and outside of the R&D department. One thing that I really like that the R&D department does is our monthly outside activity. This is essentially a bonding activity where we go to an arcade, go-carting, hiking, or off-roading. This really helps in connecting the whole department because there are various personalities among all my team members, and these outside activities allow us to get to know each other more and discover commonalities. I think that these activities also help with eliminating clashes between co-workers because I have never felt any friction between my colleagues here at Fluxergy.
What have been the biggest challenges that you have faced at work?
One challenging project that I had was developing our multiplex Human Respiratory Panel (HRP) that could test for three different targets simultaneously rather than just one. At the time, many of our clients did not like having to keep the test kits in dry ice, so another development I made was allowing for the test kits to be in a room temperature environment.
What has been your most significant contribution to Fluxergy?
I worked on the Lateral Flow Assay (LFA) project, and I was asked to develop a single cassette LFA. This cassette is useful in the quantification of a virus; it analyzes how sick one is, rather than just providing a yes or no answer as to whether one is sick or not. We are very excited because this software has proven to be similar to, if not better than, the best LFA device on the market.
When you are at work, do you find yourself engaged and motivated? What inspires you?
I do feel engaged and motivated at work, and I believe that it is the environment at Fluxergy that is the motivating factor for me. I have never felt belittled or shut down when I have an idea or question. It is an uplifting environment in which I feel that my ideas and questions can be easily brought up in conversation, free of judgement.
Which of your co-workers motivates and inspires you the most?
Everyone does. I would never have been able to complete or even progress in my projects the way that I did without my colleagues. I am constantly elevated by my peers and genuinely enjoy interacting with everyone that works at Fluxergy.
What aspects of Fluxergy’s values do you identify with?
I think that the biggest value I identify with is helping others. I want to look back one day and feel proud of the work I did because it helped somebody or made someone’s life better. This ties in with the fact that Fluxergy is a biotech company. I have always preferred the medical side because it allows me to feel like I am enhancing someone else’s life by ensuring that their health can be taken care of.
What does your life outside of work look like?
I enjoy going to the gym or going on outdoor runs. In general, spending time outside is very important to me as I believe that it really helps with one’s mental health and well-being. I also enjoy going on off-roading adventures and camping. On the weekends I love going to brunch or getting ice cream as well. I also like to read. Currently, I am reading about self-healing and how to heal/understand my inner child. It is a very interesting book because it talks about how all people have an inner child, but it goes even further by teaching readers how to analyze how and where their inner child comes out on a day-to-day basis.
-The CEO or the manager works for the team of employees. What I mean by this is that a team can do more work and make a project better by going further compared to the significantly smaller amount of work and progress that a CEO or manager could do on their own.
-If there is anything that someone needs clarification on, there is nothing wrong with that. I would rather someone speak up because I want to make sure that everyone is on the same page and feels heard.