A Day in the Life of a Technical Services Scientist

Technical Services Scientists answer questions such as "Which product is right for me?" "How does this product work?" and "Help! Something went wrong!"

As a student, I wasted so much time wondering which assay would work best or muddling through problems on my own. I wish I had known I could reach out to get help from another knowledgeable scientist: A Technical Services Scientist!

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The Power of Vulnerability

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

If we want to reignite innovation and passion, we must rehumanize work.

-Silicon Valley CEO of Several Start-ups

If we want to rehumanize work, we need to be more human in the workplace.

-Promega’s ESI Bootcamp

Vulnerability is the birthplace of intimacy, trust connection, creativity, innovation. For leaders, it is the birthplace of trusted influence. But it is not permission to overshare.

-Brené Brown

Myths of Vulnerability

It’s important that we start off by making a few things about vulnerability crystal clear:  being vulnerable is not about over-sharing, being emotional—or worse, gushy. It is not about sacrificing necessary boundaries or letting go of all discernment when speaking. Vulnerability, as we intend it, is about being real with others. It is about being clear and honest enough within yourself that you can use courage and clarity to state a need or a perspective. Quite the opposite of requiring tears or grand displays of emotion, vulnerability can be expressed with utter command of one’s emotions, so that the clarity and authenticity of the message is what remains.

Vulnerability is also knowing that you cannot know everything or do your work perfectly or even to your full satisfaction sometimes, and it is having this same understanding and acceptance for others. It is being able to speak to that honestly so that we can build sustainable bridges between ourselves and others. We call this speaking our truths–with discernment.

Finally, vulnerability is knowing that while we must give our best efforts where and whenever we can, we must also know what we can’t control.  In most cases, what we cannot control is outcomes.  Therefore, vulnerability is embracing the uncertainty in how things will go in our relationships and in our work if we risk emotional exposure.  We cannot always know how others will hear what we share, but we can learn to take that risk and speak in service to a common goal.  For example, we might decide to share that the reason we are being so obsessive or insistent on a process is because of a past failure (perceived or real) that we still carry with us.  Even though we cannot control what others will think of our story, we trust that the sharing may help them share a need of their own or to hear our own need differently, so that we can all work together.  This is true in every relationship of our lives, where we learn to share something true for the sake of allowing another human being to know us as we are. 

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Reflections: King’s College London iGEM 2020, Renervate and Future Prospects

Today’s guest blog about the 2020 virtual iGEM Giant Jamboree is written by Abigail Conner, Co-Team Leader of iGEM King’s College London (KCL).

In October 2019, I returned to London from Boston feeling elated after an unforgettable week at the Giant Jamboree. My team, Capacity, had just won a Silver Medal. I had the privilege of presenting in front of the judges about our work. The Giant Jamboree presented me with a vision of where Synthetic Biology will take us and its potential to radically transform our society for the better. Words cannot describe the deep sense of pride I felt to be a part of this community. For the first time, I felt truly empowered as a young scientist and was hugely inspired by the brilliance of my peers. As a result, I was beyond happy to assume the role of Team Leader of KCL’s 2020 team.

Almost immediately after touching down in the United Kingdom, I began to plan our project. Throughout the recruitment process and setting up applications, Stephanie Avraamides—the Head of Human Practices in Capacity—joined me in leading the team. As Co-Team Leaders, we would establish Renervate, a team of 19 undergraduate students from various STEM backgrounds, from Nutrition to Biomedical Engineering. Although we were fortunate to have met up in person several times before March, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic scattered us across the world. Our team members represent sixteen different countries, meaning we had to navigate a range of time zones when working virtually. Despite this, we adapted to the virtual setting and worked tirelessly to develop Renervate. Come November, we would be rewarded for our endurance and commitment. I am thrilled to say that Renervate won a Gold Medal, Best Therapeutics Project, and nominations for Best Model and Best Supporting Entrepreneurship at last year’s Virtual Giant Jamboree.

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Technical Manuals: A New Look

This blog post was cowritten by Sara Klink and Kari Kenefick.

Promega technical manuals have a new look! But never fear, our manuals still contain the protocol instructions for correctly using Promega products and include data, product and component storage information that you need to be successful at the bench. The cover art on our manuals now incorporates the use of imagery created by David Goodsell, which you can also find on our product boxes and at www.promega.com. The new cover image is being applied as we create new technical manuals or revise existing documents. Below are the old (left) and new (right) covers to compare:

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How to Train Your Instrument Service Team in a Pandemic

Service engineers engaged in remote instrument training.

When the Spectrum Compact CE System launched in June 2020, all the instrument service engineers that are part of the Promega Global Service & Support (GSS) Team needed to be trained on using and fixing the instrument. This is a challenging endeavor in the best of times, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more difficult. Thanks to the work of some dedicated teams and individuals, Promega service engineers around the world were able to receive remote instrument training. But how do you teach someone to repair an instrument when you can’t be in the same room?

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How the Pandemic Changed Us

This past year has been a challenging one for most of us. The COVID-19 global pandemic has changed the way we live. We are working from home, our kids are learning online, we can’t gather with friends and family, we are wearing masks, we no longer attend in-person events. All of this change around us has profoundly affected us in many ways.

We asked our Promega colleagues how the pandemic changed their lives and how they adapted. How are they feeling? What keeps them going? What lessons have they learned? And what good has come out of it? Here’s what they said.

Photo credit: Johanna Lee
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Exploring the Virtual iGEM Giant Jamboree with iGEM Concordia

Today’s guest blog about the 2020 virtual iGEM Giant Jamboree is written by Lancia Lefebvre, Team Leader of iGEM Concordia.

AstroBio database for differential gene expression

After a year of full-time work, I joined our team of 16 undergraduate students to live-stream the virtual iGEM Giant Jamboree from the isolation of our respective apartments. Together in a separate zoom call and Facebook chat, we fired off messages as awards were announced. ‘OMG Toulouse won best poster! Did you see Aachen’s project?’ Then came the Software Track award, our track, and boom! “Concordia-Montreal are the Software Track Winners for iGEM Giant Jamboree 2020!”

Firework and heart emojis exploded in our chat and on my zoom call, mouths gaped in shock and pride. Our AstroBio database for differential gene expression in microgravity conditions had won! Innumerable lines of code; hours of consultation with NASA bioinformaticians, bioethicists and coding pros; detailed graphic design; and most of all passionate teamwork had brought us this distinction. A gold medal and an inclusion nomination soon followed. This nomination we hold close to our heart as we continuously collaborate on a safe, warm and welcoming team structure. Supporting each other and working together are core iGEM values, which lead to collaborative and stronger solutions to world problems through the application of synthetic biology solutions.

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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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A Virtual Visit with the National Young Researcher of the Year

Gayetri Ramachandran taught her first university class during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the online course was successful overall, it was a strange experience to teach without being able to see the students.

Gayetri Ramachandran, the first recipient of the National Young Researchers Prize by Promega France

“If you’re giving a seminar and you can’t see the other person, it’s extremely difficult,” says Gayetri, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institut Necker Enfants Malades in Paris, France. “If they’re sleeping, I can’t see them. It’s fine, you can sleep, but if I can’t see that you’re sleeping, then I can’t get that feedback in real time.”

Earlier this summer, Gayetri had another opportunity to give an online presentation. Before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted travel plans, she was scheduled to visit the Promega Headquarters in Madison, WI, to tour the facilities and meet with R&D scientists. Instead, Gayetri presented her research to a group of Promega scientists in the first Promega Virtual Customer Experience Visit.

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