Just in Time for Wisconsin’s Invasive Species Month: Goats

Invasive kudzu vine

Invasive kudzu vine covering a forest

“In Georgia, the legend says
That you must close your windows
At night to keep it out of the house
The glass is tinged with green, even so
As tendrils crawl over the fields…”
—James Dickey (1)

I grew up in Georgia, where on a hot, humid summer day you could almost hear the hiss of growing vegetation, especially the Kudzu as it climbed over fence posts and encroached upon the roadside, the king of invasive species. In Florida you worry about the alligators along the roadside if you have a flat tire; in Georgia, beware the Kudzu.

Invasive species, animal and plant, are an issue in all ecosytems. Imported from distant (and not-so-distant) areas both by accident and misguided intent, invasive species are species that have escaped the checks and balances of natural competitors and predators that existed in their native habitats. This lack of predation and competition enables them to outcompete and overrun other species.

Kudzu may be one of the most recognized invasive species in the United States, but it’s probably not the worst. The zebra mussel is an aquatic animal that has invaded our waterways in Wisconsin. Oak savannahs and prairie ecosystems in the Midwest United States are threatened by many invasive plant species like garlic mustard and blister parsnip. The Wisconsin DNR lists nearly 150 restricted and/or prohibited invasive plant species in Wisconsin, including Kudzu (2). Continue reading

Biotech Manufacturing: A Good Machinist is Critical for Your Laboratory Reagents

Travis Beyer, Machinist Technician, at the CNC milling machine in the Promega machine shop.

Travis Beyer, Machinist Technician, at the CNC milling machine in the Promega machine shop.

It can be easy to forget that Promega is a manufacturing business. The company’s cGMP Feynman Center on the Madison campus has been described as looking more like a retreat than a factory. But hidden within the well-designed walls of Feynman, as well as in other facilities on campus, technicians operate hundreds of machines that manufacture, dispense and package Promega reagents day in and day out. Keeping those high-tech machines running at peak performance is critical, requiring immense skill, precision and even artistry. That’s where Promega Machinist Technician Travis Beyer comes in.

“I get to make stuff,” says Travis who is not afraid to show his enthusiasm for his craft while describing the best part of his job. “There’s a product at the end of the day. Plus I get to support science, and make things that support people’s lives. That’s cool.”

 I get to make stuff. There’s a product at the end of the day. Plus I get to support science, and make things that support people’s lives. That’s cool.

The da Vinci Center, another artfully designed building on the Madison campus, houses the Promega machine shop where Travis does his work designing or improving on parts for newer manufacturing equipment or reverse engineering broken or worn parts no longer available for older equipment that still serves its purpose. He makes every machine part imaginable from drive shafts to sensor brackets to filling forks, and his work is critical to manufacturing businesses like Promega, where a downed piece of equipment can cause costly production delays.

An example of a machine part that Travis designs or reverse engineers and then builds to keep Promega manufacturing moving smoothly.

An example of a machine part that Travis designs or reverse engineers and then builds to keep Promega manufacturing moving smoothly.

As he explains, not many manufacturing companies the size of Promega have a fully capable machine shop. They usually send out their work, meaning longer lead times and more expense. But, as its distinctive architecture suggests, Promega is not like many other companies. Continue reading

Travelogue Galapagos Part II: An Incredible Experience in Paradise

In 2014, Promega created a special incentive to reward field science consultants who help the scientific community take advantage of our on-site stocking program. The winners had to meet ambitious criteria to receive 2 round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world, a week of paid vacation and spending money. Our four winners will share photos and stories about their journeys on the Promega Connections Blog.

Today’s travelogue is Part II of the adventures of Amy Parman, a regional sales manager, who used her award to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

Day 7: Urbina Bay, Isabela Island & Punta Mangle, Fernandina Island – Today was another early morning wake up, this time to the soothing strains of Journey. We had a quick breakfast and jumped in the dinghy for an exploratory ride. We passed a tree full of so many pelicans covering the branches that they looked as though they could be fruit, ripe for the picking. Our dinghy slowly passed many more sea turtles, golden cownose rays, small eagle rays, marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs (stunningly red against the black lava).

We also came across several sea lions sleeping away the morning in a comfy mangrove branch bed. More striated herons were perched in the mangroves hunting fish below and three playful sea lion pups swam right up to our feet dangling over the dinghy as if to say, “jump out and play with us.” Bayron said they are likely around ten months old and their mother has left them in the protected bay while she goes out to fish.

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Sea lion pup in Urbina Bay, Isabela Island.

After the ride, we had a chance to snorkel for a couple of hours and did, in fact, swim right along with a very fast and playful sea lion. The sea lions were pretty big, and seemed even more so when we were in the water with them. It was quite the experience to have him dart all around us while we swam. Marine iguanas were also swimming with us and clinging to the lava eating seaweed off the rocks about eight feet deep. There were loads of fish all around and by now we’ve had a few shark sightings among the group. Interestingly, the shark species around the Galapagos, while numerous, do not regard humans as a food source. It has become a tour goal to find as many as we can and, while a challenge, we do catch glimpses of the hammerheads and reef sharks that are never too far away. Continue reading

Promega Employees Find Their Muse in Company Band

Becky Guy (keyboard), Randy  Dimond (left), Eric Vincent (Trombone) play for the Promega Employee Recognition Meeting as part of Lead Generation.

Becky Guy (keyboard), Randy Dimond (left), Eric Vincent (Trombone) play for the Promega Employee Recognition Meeting as part of Lead Generation.

Musicians wait onstage as the sound tech adjusts the cables around them. He signals “OK” and runs back through the seats of the empty auditorium to the mixing board. The musicians all dressed in black, instruments in hand, prepare to play. Four sharp whacks from the drummer’s sticks and music fills the space. Horns, keyboards, electric guitar, bass, and harmonica back singers as they belt out the upbeat earworm Drive It Like You Stole It. They sound great and make it look pretty effortless too, which is why it’s hard to believe these “rock stars” are also scientists, marketers, IT specialists, lawyers, you name it, who make up the Promega employee band, Lead Generation. (Thank marketing for the name.)

“Lead Generation is just one of the many opportunities at Promega that make it truly unique,” says Kris Zimmerman, a research scientist who sings and plays trumpet with the band. “Any kind of expression of creativity can help you to have different perspectives and be a better problem solver. Fostering an environment where collaboration and creativity are rewarded really helps to create a sense of belonging, and creates a vibe of excitement that you don’t find just anywhere. Plus how cool is it to tell people that you play in a band? At work?”

Continue reading

Meet Brian Hayman, Program Manager on the Spectrum Team

29160613_lPromega will introduce the Spectrum CE System for forensic and paternity analysis. Building this system requires the efforts of many people from many disciplines–from our customers who have told us their needs to the engineers and scientists building the instrument and ensuring its performance. Periodically we will introduce our Promega Connections readers to a team member so that you can have a sneak peak and behind-the-scenes look at Spectrum CE System  and the people who are creating it (of course if you truly want to be the first to know, sign up at www.promega.com/spectrum to receive regular, exclusive updates about Spectrum CE).

Today we introduce Brian Hayman, Program Manager. Continue reading

Travelogue Galapagos Part I: Realizing a Lifelong Dream

In 2014, Promega created a special incentive to reward field science consultants who help the scientific community take advantage of our on-site stocking program. The winners had to meet ambitious criteria to receive 2 round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world, a week of paid vacation and spending money. Our four winners will share photos and stories about their journeys on the Promega Connections Blog.

Today’s travelogue is Part I of the adventures of Amy Parman, a regional sales manager, who used her award to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.32178451-dec-12-image-1-600x400-web

Day 1: Seattle to Miami – Today we tied up a few last minute details, tested the satellite phones, checked that Grandma and Grandpa had all the info and resources they needed for anything that should arise while we were inaccessible (the manual we left was slightly thicker than War and Peace, and way less interesting), loaded up the car, put on the out-of-office alerts, kissed the kiddos good-bye and headed to SeaTac for a red-eye flight to Miami. We’re off!

Day 2: Miami to Guayaquil, Ecuador – Today (Was it day? After a red-eye, who knows?) we arrived in Miami in the very wee hours. We snagged a quick breakfast and a hotel right in the Miami airport which rents rooms for the day, which was our first experience with an hourly hotel—ahem! Our nine hour layover included lunch, mani/pedis and a much needed nap. We boarded our flight to Guayaquil and made full use of some particularly goofy-looking, newly-purchased neck pillows. My husband created a little excitement as we boarded the plane—he couldn’t find his passport as the flight attendant was readying the flight doors for departure. Our local seatmates and two flight attendants helped to find it quickly as it had slipped between the window seat and the floor. Phew! The flight was smooth as a wet seal and we arrived in Guayaquil to find the Hilton shuttle waiting for us. We checked into our room and grabbed some midnight sangria and flautas while we listened to an awesome Ecuadorian jazz band in the hotel bar. This trip is off to a fabulous start! Continue reading

Promega Spain Gets Moving Outdoors For A Cause

A bike ride through the beautiful countryside, or even a routine walk to the corner store, is good for both body and soul. But sometimes even that’s not enough to get us moving in the fresh air. So our Promega Biotech Ibérica branch recently found a way to raise the stakes, and make outdoor activity even more valuable for its employees.

Promega Biotech Ibérica collected images of the beautiful Spanish countryside during their Kilometros Solidarios campaign.

Promega Biotech Ibérica collected images of the beautiful Spanish countryside during their Kilometros Solidarios campaign.

Last summer, the branch came up with the idea to donate one euro to the children’s oncology department of Hospital La Paz in Madrid for every kilometer its staff biked, walked or ran outside. The idea behind Kilometros Solidarios (Solidarity Kilometers) was simple but powerful: healthy activity leading directly to the health of others.

The plan worked. During the months of July, August and September, employees got up and outside and the branch raised €1884 (about $1993 USD) toward the purchase of a much-needed portable ultrasound machine for the hospital. (To point out the obvious, 1884 kilometers of outdoor activity were racked up by just 15 employees. That’s 4710 times around an Olympic track, or about the same distance as walking, biking or running from Promega Ibérica to Promega GmbH or from the Promega Madison headquarters straight south to the Gulf of Mexico.) Continue reading

You Become Your Habits

29980706-AugustBlog-BrainPuzzleHumans are, by nature, creatures of habit. The Experts Blog from the Cleveland Clinic tells us up to 95% of our thoughts are repeated every day–habitual thoughts, and they can take root in our lives without our conscious realization. Habits help us get through the day. Imagine having to wake up each morning and decide what you should do next. Knowing that you need to shower, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, etc. saves us some major brain power. Problems can occur when our habits unknowingly become incongruent with our values and goals. Many of us have habits that no longer serve us, such as smoking, the way we respond to our spouse or the thoughts we have about ourselves. These habits can keep us stuck and they don’t leave much room for creative thought and solving problems.

The obvious question is “how can we break free from obstructive habits?” Committing to just 10-15 minutes of meditation per day will create changes in the brain that allow you to increase the time between stimulus and response, which will give you greater freedom in how you respond and react. The cultivation of conscious awareness through meditation, therefore, can help us break habits that are unhealthy or that are no longer serving us. Just by recognizing our habits and placing our attention on them they will begin to soften. With commitment we can begin to see these habits change.

If you want to try an experiment, pay attention to the choices you make and your reactions over the next few days. Make a mental note of these thoughts and reactions and decide if they are in line with your values. You may also begin to notice what triggers precede these habitual responses.  If they are thoughts or actions you’d like to change, make an intention to respond differently next time. No one can break these deeply rooted patterns all at once, but by noticing and deciding what you’d like to do differently, you will be taking a huge step forward in the process.

How’s That for Wellness?

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just trying to find a fun activity to do with a coworker, a 5K run/walk can be a fun event for all.  Promega recently hosted its 7th annual 5K run/walk and had more than 155 participants at the Madison, WI,  location.  The event was a fun activity for everyone to get out, get active and be social. The event also helped raise over 160 pounds of food and over $115 in cash that was donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

As a nation, we have become more focused on our health and wellness than ever before. Nearly everyone is trying to drink more water, be more mindful of what they eat, and it’s hard to look around the room without finding someone wearing a fitness tracker to keep track of their daily steps.  Health and wellness has also become increasingly popular in the workplace. According to Health Fitness Revolution, the top benefits of a Workplace Wellness Program are as follow:

  • Fun
  • Improved Productivity
  • Happiness
  • Sense of Community
  • Lower Healthcare Costs
  • Sense of Accomplishment
  • Improved Physical Fitness
  • Weight Loss
  • Less Stress
  • Healthier Habits

At Promega our focus on wellness as an organization is no different. We recognize that being active and taking care of your health, and your family’s health, has an impact beyond how you feel.  Because of that, we have a wellness or fitness center in each of our facilities to make staying active and fit more convenient. We also believe that wellbeing extends beyond physical health and have a campus that features native gardens with walking paths and dedicated meditative spaces to encourage total wellness. Promega strives to be a leader in health & wellness initiatives that enable our employees to become the best version of themselves. We don’t do this for a potential monetary return on the investment, but because we truly believe that by becoming the best version of yourself, our employees also become the most fulfilled.

 

Meet Jonelle Thompson, Validation Services Manager for the Spectrum CE Instrument

29160613_lPromega will soon introduce the Spectrum CE System for forensic and paternity analysis. Building this system requires the efforts of many people from many disciplines—from our customers who have told us their needs to the engineers and scientists building the instrument and ensuring its performance. Periodically we will introduce our Promega Connections readers to a team member so that you can have a sneak peak and behind-the-scenes look at Spectrum CE System  and the people who are creating it (of course if you truly want to be the first to know, sign up at www.promega.com/spectrum to receive regular, exclusive updates about Spectrum CE).

Today we introduce Jonelle Thompson, Validation Services Manager. Continue reading