Barbara Birk - from veterinary science to research

The path through research was a key building block for taking the next step to my current position – team leader in the global Birds & Mammals team – and paid off for me in every way.

Barbara Birk

Global Team Leader Birds & Mammals

Joining BASF as a veterinarian? Barbara is the perfect example of how sometimes it is the unexpected combinations that offer the greatest potential. Having joined BASF in the area of food safety, she switched to toxicology, where she was involved in researching alternatives to animal testing. It is a subject extremely close to her heart. Today, she is team leader for the global Birds & Mammals team.


A degree as a veterinarian does not typically lead to work at BASF. However, I switched my focus during my studies for personal reasons and therefore went into industry. After five years at a small company, I applied to BASF and got a job as lab team leader in the area of food safety at Agricultural Solutions. The change was quite a shock at first: This huge company with all its possibilities and complexity was a completely new universe to me. I learned a lot of new things and after five years I was asked whether I would like to come into toxicology, in order to research and develop alternatives to animal testing. I was quite surprised since I was not a toxicologist by training – I just gained basic knowledge during my veterinarian studies. But I found the topic so emotionally appealing that I immediately agreed. I have never learned as much as I did in the following six years. The scientific exchange with the colleagues, the further training and the ability to build a network and represent BASF externally made it really unique. Above all, I appreciate the fact that I gained an overview of the entire BASF portfolio, which is not possible in such depth when you work for a division. Finally, I was approached by Agricultural Solutions and asked if I wanted to switch to ecotoxicology. They were looking for a team leader who understands toxicology and many aspects of BASF and is well networked – and I was able to contribute all of this thanks to my work in research. I had to give up my expert status for the new assignment, but that didn’t stop me making the decision. Now I am team leader for the global Birds & Mammals team and, in a way, I have returned to my roots. However, the path through research has been worthwhile for me in every respect.

When you start at BASF you just don’t know what your opportunities are. Every time I moved within BASF, I was approached, so someone could imagine that I was the right person for the job. The prerequisite for this is to have a network and simply show that you are doing a good job, you are a team player and loyal and you deliver. You must be visible to a certain extent with what you do. This certainly requires the right manager, who gives you the space for this development and maybe nudges a bit at the beginning if you still hesitate. The rest happened to me by itself.

To me, career does not mean “I must become the next Mr. Brudermüller.” A career at BASF is a journey that does not necessarily have to go up the mountain, but which can lead to many great and unknown areas. I also rejected offers of other job opportunities in the past. I have never allowed myself to be pressured in my decisions, even if others  have been told that such an opportunity would never arise again. Also, being an expert did not influence my decisions in any way. And it was very important to me to leave in a good and correct way, because you are always bound to see each other again at BASF.