Biotechnology Teaching Online: A New Way to Look at Scientific Notebooks

This post is written by guest blogger, Peter Kritsch MS, Adjunct Instructor BTC Institute.

When I was in the middle of my junior year in high school, my family moved. We had lived in the first state for 12 years. I had gone to school there since kindergarten. Although it wasn’t a small district, I knew everybody and, for better or worse, everybody knew me. Often the first reaction I get when I tell people when we moved is that it must have been hard to move so close to graduation. The reality is . . . it really wasn’t. In fact, it was quite liberating. See, I didn’t have to live up to anybody else’s expectations of who I was based on some shared experience in 2nd grade. I had the opportunity to be who I wanted to be, to try new things without feeling like I couldn’t because that wasn’t who I was supposed to be. 

As long as I refrained from beginning too many sentences with “Well at my old school . . . “ people had to accept me for who I was in that moment, not for who they perceived me to be for the previous 12 years. Now, the new activities were not radically different. I still played baseball and still geeked out taking AP science classes, but I picked up new activities like golf, playing basketball with my friends, and even joined the yearbook. I know . . . “radically different.”  The point is that the new situation allowed me to try something new without worrying about what had always been. 

Peter teaches about biofuels in his virtual classroom.

The pandemic has forced a lot of us to move our classrooms online. In a short period of time, everything changed about how education was done. Our prior teaching experience, including the experience I had with doing blended learning (ooops . . . “back at my old school”), was helpful to a point.  But we quickly found out that being completely virtual was different. And as science teachers, how do you do more than just teach concepts when online? How do you help students to continue engaging in the crucial parts of science – observing, questioning, designing, analyzing, and communicating?

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Reflections on Virtual Conference Life: Can You Hear Me?

Today’s guest blog is written by Research Scientist Danette Daniels, PhD.

Virtual Conference Presentation

One of my favorite things about being a scientist is attending conferences. They are an opportunity to connect with the broader community, share ideas, talk about the future, and get inspired. After a conference I would return to my lab feeling so energized and excited, being motivated to push the research forward and work on the next stories we could share.

In March of this year, I remember my shock of watching the conferences slowly getting canceled one by one. First, it was everything in March and April, then May, then through to August.  I was in denial at the time, thinking this would be temporary and that we would all be back together in person in a few months. Then it became quite clear this would not be the case and events were transitioning to a virtual format.

Virtual! I was so skeptical. How could you connect with anyone at a virtual conference? How are people going to ask questions after a talk? How will it be to give a talk basically to your computer, not knowing who is listening, or more importantly for me, not being able to read the audience? I was not looking forward to it, but the alternative, no conferences at all, I thought was worse.

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3 Tips for Preserving Muscle and Joint Health at Work

Today’s guest blog was written by Claire Checovich, Exercise & Ergonomics Specialist in the Promega Wellness Center.

The human body is amazing – it can climb towering cliffs, run hundreds of miles, and move many times its own weight.

It can also be annoying – how many of us have been injured just by sleeping or sitting in a funny position?

We’ve almost certainly all experienced the latter, whether we’re hunched over books and papers or staring at a computer for hours on end. That’s where ergonomics and biomechanics comes in.

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Beyond the Lab Bench: Personal Connection and Experience Drive Creativity in Serology Assay Development

This post is written by guest blogger, Melanie Dart, PhD, Sr. Research Scientist at Promega.

Melanie Dart, PhD.

Along with lockdowns and sheltering in place efforts, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a unique challenge to our doorstep this spring: developing a clinical serological test for COVID-19 to detect the presence of antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The project was one of the fastest, most dynamic development efforts ever undertaken at Promega. In general, in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests take at least one to two years to develop. Nothing about 2020, however, has been typical.

It was important to move quickly. We set an aggressive timeline, and to meet it we needed not only dedication of our internal team, but also contributions from the local community.

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Three Pillars of ESI Mastery: Part One

“If You Only Knew Who You Were…”

Today’s blog is written by Malynn Utzinger, Director of Integrative Practices, and Tim Weitzel, ESI Architect.

We are a little nervous writing about Emotional & Social Intelligence (ESI) “mastery.” This makes it sound like we think it is possible to become perfect at emotional and social intelligence when our actual position on the matter is more about progress than perfection. 

We’re reminded of a quote from a wise teacher. Upon turning 90 he was asked, “What’s one of the most important lessons you have learned in your 90 years?” He replied, “That we are all a mixed bag.” 

No one is perfect. We all have strengths and we all have areas to grow, and we all always will. But the progress we make and its impact on our lives is so worth the effort.

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Just What Is an RLU (Relative Light Unit)?

This post was contributed by guest blogger, Scott Messenger, Technical Support Scientist 2 at Promega Corporation.

It’s always an exciting time in the lab when you find a new assay to answer an important research question. Once you get your hands on the assay, it is always good to confirm it will work for your experimental setup. Repeating the control experiment shown in the technical manual is a great way to test the assay in your hands.

After running that first experiment of your assay, it looks pretty good. The trends of control and treatment are consistent. Time to get on with the experiments…but wait—the RLUs (Relative Light Units) are two orders of magnitude lower than the example data! I can’t show this data to my colleagues; it doesn’t match. What did I do wrong?

This is a concern that we in Technical Services hear frequently. The concern is real, and I had this same thought when doing some of my first experiments using luminescence. When a question like this comes in, a Technical Service Scientist will make sure the experiment was performed as we described, and in most cases it is. We then start talking about RLUs (Relative Light Units).

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iGEM in a Pandemic: Reflecting on Human Practices

Today’s blog is written by the University of Copenhagen iGEM Team.


The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition has 257 teams of students competing this year. Despite all of the unique difficulties we’re all facing in 2020, the University of Copenhagen is competing once again. This year’s project involves a unique approach to Chronic Inflammatory Diseases (CIDs).

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The Impact of Positive Self-Talk: A Next-Level Story

Today’s blog is written by Malynn Utzinger, Director of Integrative Practices, and Tim Weitzel, ESI Architect.

Last month in this series, we posed to you that the most important decision you’ll ever make is the one about how to respond to the circumstances of your life – the story you tell yourself when the rough patches of life show up. Because of our brains’ wiring, we tend to spin self-defensive and blaming stories as a first line of defense until we learn to pause, check in with ourselves, and cultivate a narrative of more generative possibilities.
This month, we promised you a next-level story that shows the outer impact that happened when one person changed his self-talk.

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Demystifying What It Means to Be Good Enough…

Today’s post is written by guest blogger, Elizabeth Smith, PhD, Field Client Support Specialist at Promega

As a person of color (POC), I would like to share my story to raise awareness on how important diversity programs are in my community and how they helped to shape my career. My hope is that it will inspire the younger generation and provide insight into a different perspective. Growing up, I always felt like there was something great out there for me to achieve. As a young child, never did I imagine that I would have what it takes to obtain a PhD. This was not on my radar as a young student, and not something that I thought would ever be in my future. I did not see people that looked like me reflected in this space, so I never considered it early on.

I knew that I wanted to go to college with a science focus, but I did not really explore what life would look like or should look like after that. What I was sure of was being involved in science in some way. Whenever, someone asked my younger self, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer would always be, “A Scientist!” All throughout elementary and high school, I focused on science related courses and did very well. This enabled me to apply for and receive a full undergraduate scholarship.

At this level of my education, I felt like I had to prove to everyone, and even myself, that I belonged here. That I was deserving of this scholarship and placement at the university. That I was good enough to receive a bachelors.

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Answers to the Most Common Questions from “Battling the Novel Coronavirus” Online Event

This post was written by guest blogger, Nitin Kapoor, from our Promega India branch office.

The COVID-19 crisis has led to substantial worldwide efforts to develop drug treatments and vaccines effective against SARS-CoV-2.  Termed a novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the same family as that of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) viruses that were responsible for epidemics in 2003 and 2012 respectively (Lu et al. 2020)

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