Sharif Sharifi

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I am the founder and CEO of Australian Food and Pharmaceutical Industries (AFPI).

What made you decide not to pursue/to leave research?
Limitations in employment, as well as my own interest in a wide range of other fields. Unfortunately, there are not many organisations that allow the flexibility to jump between branches, despite the significant interconnections between them.

How did you transition into this current role from a science degree?
I was the founder and CEO of a similar manufacturing plant that I established in Iran 30 years ago. I established AFPI in January 2015 after my contract was not renewed by UNSW Faculty of Medicine.   
How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
My Master’s in Food and Drug Analysis has proven to be invaluable in the AFPI laboratory, and in daily operations. All of our innovations have been approached and tested scientifically. I still make use of the same practical books (modified by myself/my staff). 

What achievement are you most proud of?  
I never compromised my integrity.

What are your interests outside of work?
Medicine, Biotechnology, Mechatronic and Martial arts. Although I’m not fit enough to perform the Karate katas, I still enjoy my nights at the gym and weight lifting.

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
Enjoy it! Love it! Use it and be innovative!

What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
The balance between work and life is a must, and can be achieved in so many ways. The minimum is to have little breaks as often as possible. Perhaps a nice cup of coffee, or simply playing with your kids. It could be taking the time to watch a movie, play sport, meditate, pray, and of course go away on holidays with those important to you.  

Is there anything you would like to share?
Leaving my medical students at UNSW in January 2015 was heavy and devastating. It took me some time to get back on my feet. But my drive for innovation and science kept me going. By the end of January, I had established AFPI, and bought a former food factory in Bomaderry, NSW. Before I knew it, our first product, Mast Chew (our plant based, organic chewing gum), was ready for the market in November. We are now producing seven products, with more to come. However, my focus on academia will never waver. I will be giving a keynote lecture in Singapore (2018) to argue the ban on chewing gum, and to consider our biodegradable, plant based chewing gum as a healthy and clean alternative. Challenges can often open new doors and paths, it’s important to persist and follow your passion.

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