Helping Others through Science and Service

Science has been an important part of my life for a long time. One of my motivations for being a scientist was to help people. As scientists, there are many ways that we make a difference. For example, doing research that reveals information about basic biological processes can provide insight into how a disease might wreak havoc, and in turn facilitate drug design and effective disease treatments. I can say from experience that it’s especially rewarding to go beyond the impact of science to assist someone in the community face to face.

A St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry host helps a client to shop for food.

Just over 5 years ago, I started volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Madison Food Pantry, the largest in Dane County, Wisconsin, which serves an average of about 400 families per week1. The pantry uses a customer-choice model in which clients are allotted points to shop for food, allowing them to make selections that preserve their dignity and ethnic diversity. The food pantry has a small staff, so volunteers are vital to keep things running. I serve as a “host” to clients and assist them to shop around the pantry for the items that they need. It has been such a positive experience for me. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not changing the world, but I’m helping someone to get essential items to make ends meet for their family. Tough times can happen to anyone, and it takes a great deal of courage to ask for help. My goal is to make the experience for clients as positive as possible by being cheerful, courteous and respectful during their time at the pantry. If my help can make a person forget even for a moment that they have fallen on hard times, then I call that a win!

A desire to make a difference in the community through volunteerism is one of the characteristics that I really like about working at Promega. At a recent company meeting, employees were asked to share how they serve the community. Activities ranged from assisting those with disabilities to participate in athletic activities to taking care of shelter animals to starting a non-profit for children in need. There were many more! Employees helped those in their local communities and even those across the globe from where they live. It was so inspiring to hear about my colleagues’ experiences of serving others.

Promega has a mechanism for employees to apply for time off to volunteer through the Promega in Action program. 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

Meet Lisa Misner, Technical Support and Training Specialist 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 Lisa Misner, Technical Support and Training Specialist. Continue reading

The Science of Fireworks

FireworksAnother Independence Day is in the books, and for many of us in the U.S. it included spending time with friends, family, food and the traditional holiday fireworks. Around the world, fireworks add to the enjoyment of many annual celebrations and events. Their colorful visual and audio display has the ability to thrill us, no matter what age we are. Despite growing older I never seem to tire of fireworks; I’ve also noticed that with each passing year the show seems to get more sophisticated. Whether it be a new color or shape or design of firework, pyrotechnic technology seems to improve at an impressive rate.

That got me thinking… how do fireworks actually “work”? Basic chemistry and physics are clearly at play, so in the spirit of a science-related blog I decided to look into this and share what I’ve learned. Continue reading

A Day In the Life: Mikael Arnfelt, Promega Sales Manager, Sweden

*Today, June 6, is Swedish National Day – a fitting day to highlight this Promega employee.

Promega sales representatives worldwide find themselves on the road on a regular basis—it is, after all, part of the job description. Traveling many miles to visit customers, they’re fortunate to enjoy a steady change of scenery and a variety of daily tasks.

Mikael at a Finnish police lab where he was servicing a Maxwell instrument.

Mikael at a Finnish police lab where he was servicing a Maxwell instrument.

For Mikael Arnfelt, Sales Manager of Promega’s Sweden branch, travel obligations are sometimes taken to a higher level. That’s why we wanted to share his adventures for our “Day In the Life” series; though as Mikael is quick to point out, there’s really no such thing as a “typical day,” at least not in his life!

Mikael’s experiences begin to make sense once you learn more about his position with Promega. “We are a small branch, so we each need to take on multiple roles,” he explains. “In the beginning I was the only sales rep for Sweden, so until last year I took care of southern Sweden and all of Finland/Estonia, together with our distributors there.” He and his few colleagues are also responsible for many different product groups—Mikael’s include Detection Instruments, Cellular Analysis, and Applied Markets. “I am also the back-up for order taking,” he says. “I currently cover this seven days a month, and during vacation periods, so my colleague can work on various administrative tasks, and even take some vacation himself.” Continue reading

In the Moment with Promega Software Designer, Dave Romanin

26062334-portrait-WEBWhen Dave Romanin came to work for Promega he was fresh out of school with a degree in bacteriology. His plan was to work for a year in manufacturing and then go back to graduate school. But in the end, he didn’t go. There was no incentive, he explains, for him to spend five years in graduate school making little to no money. He didn’t want to write grants or run his own lab, and he enjoyed what he was doing.

Twenty‐four years later, Dave is still here. He’s moved around a bit, first manufacturing, then dispensing, kit packaging and then on to software development with Lou Mezei. Their first software project was a quality control software to capture data from the scales weighing bottles to ensure they were filled correctly. His experience in manufacturing helped him understand what the program needed to do and helped him define the specifications for the software for the programmer. He has been designing software for the last 10 years, and has worked on projects for everyone from marketing to manufacturing.

He describes his job, in part, as a game of cat and mouse. Dave spends hours testing the software, trying to find the weaknesses the developer didn’t anticipate—in essence, trying to break it. When he finds something that throws the software off or causes it to crash, he and the programmer decide on the next steps. Sometimes it is an easy fix, and sometimes they have to decide if it is worth what it would take to fix it. Would a user be likely to ever do what Dave did? Continue reading

Finding Space for Passion: Interview with Promega Quality Assurance Scientist, Matt Hanson

QA Senior Scientist Matt Hanson

QA Senior Scientist Matt Hanson

When he was a kid, Matt Hanson would disappear into the basement for an entire day and emerge later with a completed model of the USS Constitution or a completed robot or a new rocket (he still makes model rockets). Design and how things fit together have always fascinated him, so a career in science was a natural fit as well.

Today Matt is a Quality Control Supervisor/QA Senior Scientist at Promega Corporation at the Madison, WI, USA, campus. He has been with Promega for 5 years now.

After completing his undergraduate studies in molecular biology, a masters in zoology where he focused on cell biology, and a PhD in developmental biology and immunology, Matt was fortunate to pursue a successful and rewarding career as an Associate Staff Scientist in the Department of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work focused on diabetes and transplantation biology.

So why did Matt join the scientific staff at Promega? Continue reading

Happy Holidays from Worldwide Promega

Happy Holidays from Promega employees around the world! This holiday season we are excited to share with you the kinds of celebrations we enjoy in the many countries that comprise the Promega family. We hope you feel more connected by reading about the festive customs, foods, symbols and events celebrated in countries that may be far from your own home. Here they are, in the words of our marketing and technical services colleagues.

Please note this is Part I of a two-part blog post. Please look for Part II to be posted on December 25, and have a wonderful holiday!

Italy
Maura Bozzalli, Marketing Manager

Christmas is very important in Italy, not only because we are the country with the Pope, but also, as in the rest of the world, it is a day dedicated to the family and the children. The celebration starts with dinner on Christmas Eve and goes on with the lunch on Christmas Day with gift exchanges as well.

But Christmas is not a real Christmas without a Panettone on the table. Panettone is a special sweet/dessert, not a cake, not a bread, and not anything else – it is Panettone! It has a rounded and very tall cylinder shape (20 cm), and originally it was from the Milan area but now it has spread out all over the country. As is typical of our country, each region has created its own version of the original recipe and of course claims that it is the best one! pannetone

Panettone takes more than two days of work to be done because it requires a long time for rising (10-12 hours) twice. Another typical note about its preparation – after cooking in the oven it is removed with a long fork and placed upside down for at least 5-10 hours until cold to prevent the humidity inside the Panettone from causing it to collapse. That is why it is saved for very special occasions like Christmas, and after so much work and time it is a pleasure to share it with the people you love. Today, not many people make it themselves at home;  instead Panettone is bought in shops but the taste and the tradition is still very lively.

Here all the ingredients needed to make a real Panettone: water, flour, salt, eggs and egg yolk, milk, butter, sugar, candied fruit (orange and citron), raisins, vanilla, and yeast. The official recipe is in Italian, but this tutorial can help you make a Panettone if you want to try for your own very special 2015 Christmas.

Continue reading

Highlights from ISHI25

ISHI25 logoLast week (September 29–October 2), I was one of almost 1,000 people who attended the 25th International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI25) in Phoenix, Arizona. This scientific meeting brings together DNA analysts from forensic and paternity labs, research scientists and others with an interest in DNA-based identification to learn about new technologies, policy and process changes, and current and future trends in DNA typing. There were so many great presentations and learning opportunities, how do I pick just a few of them to highlight?

Continue reading

Articles, Blog Posts, Tweets, New Products and One Page to See Them All

If you are like me, there are just not enough hours in the day. The list of things that I need to get done regularly out distances the time I have to do them in. Keeping up with my favorite blogs, staying in tune with things on twitter and staying on top of new product and features often fall by the wayside because it takes so much time to go to all those pages and find the content I want.

Recently we updated the Promega PubHub page on our website with the hopes that it will help you use the time you spend visiting the PubHub page more efficiently. In addition to latest technical articles from Promega, useful lab facts and the ever-popular cartoons, we now offer a live feed of our Promega Connections Blog posts, tweets from @Promega and a list of new products.

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We know that your time is valuable, and if you are interested in the articles and more from Promega, there is now one page to see it all.