Supporting Caregivers, Colleagues, and Neighbors

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.” – The Beatles

And don’t forget family, colleagues, neighbors. And, these days, the chatty checker at the grocery store, the postal carrier who offers a wave, even the guy who makes oh-so-brief eye contact at a stoplight. We’re all getting by with a little help from anyone who will offer it.   

two people wearing masks and social distancing give waves in the subway station

Care. Support. Help! We provide and receive these gifts throughout our entire lives. The pandemic, however, has prompted many of us to feel the weight of their importance more than ever. We simply need one another to get by. Lending someone a helping hand can be tremendous therapy, too. Today we pause to appreciate three distinct ways our Promega community is supporting colleagues in times of need.     

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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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More than Gazpacho: Farming the Soil to Sustain the Ecosystem

This post was written by guest blogger, Karen Stakun, Brand Manager at Promega Corporation.

When I arrived at the garden that morning, I was completely focused on the clusters of ripe tomatoes I’d hoped to see. I was there to take photographs, and the red, ripe fruit was going to be the star of the show. In every direction, there were long rows of plants: raspberries, peppers, okra, cabbage, fennel and kale. A black pickup truck pulled up to the edge of the Promega garden and a pair of well-worn work boots landed hard on the dewy grass. Mike Daugherty introduced himself as a Master Gardener, Master Composter, and member of the Promega culinary services team.

Mike laid out black plastic crates at the end of each row of the tomato garden. There were 700 bed feet of heirloom slicers and paste tomatoes to be harvested. Seduced by the intense red, orange and yellow of the juicy tomatoes, my thoughts immediately drifted to visions of BLT’s, caprese salad and gazpacho soup. As he hand-carried 3 or 4 tomatoes at a time and laid them in the crates, Mike called my attention to all the other things that were going on around the fruit.

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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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An art award for a picture of a rock? A decade of the UW-Madison Cool Science Image Contest

Celebrating the art of science is something the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cool Science Image Contest has been doing since its inception 10 years ago as part of The Why Files. The 2020 winning images include entries as diverse as videos of neural stem cells, eye-ball licking geckos and yes, even a picture of rock: actually a thin section of tractolite, an igneous rock composed of feldspar and olivine  collected near Duluth Minnesota form the Proterozoic Mid-continent Rift. This image was collected by Natalie Betz, PhD, Associate Director of the UW-Madison Master of Science in Biotechnology program and her daughter Anya Wolterman, a recent graduate of Macalester College with degrees in Geology and Physics. Natalie has a long-time connection with Promega and the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute, so we reached out to her to get the perspective of a contest entrant.  Natalie is answering for both her and her daughter while her daughter is away doing some trail maintenance in the Rockies and is not available for comment.

This thin section of troctolite, an igneous rock composed of feldspar and olivine, was collected near Duluth, Minnesota, from the Proterozoic Midcontinent Rift. The rift is a tear in the Earth’s crust caused by continental plates colliding in the Lake Superior region. Polarized light accentuates vivid colors.

Promega Connections: Why did you decide to enter the UW Cool Science Image contest?

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Working Through Change: Quality Assurance Insight on Change Orders and Life

Today’s blog is written by guest blogger, Erin Schuster, Quality Specialist at Promega.


Change is not easy. It can be challenging and even frustrating at times. Yet, the outcome of change can be incredibly beneficial and rewarding. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are finding ourselves in out-of-the-norm situations and circumstances. Change may be exactly what we need in order to adapt and move forward.

Erin works from home during the coronavirus crisis.

As a quality assurance specialist, I’m very familiar with the processes that can be associated with change. In order to make changes related to the design, manufacture or testing of medical devices and related products, an organization must have clearly defined expectations and instructions within Standard Operating Procedures. Procedures are a key component of the quality management system. Not only do they communicate best practices, but they’re required for compliance to applicable regulations and standards. These procedures, regulations, and standards help ensure products are safe, effective and of high quality.

Unlike changes to medical devices, the process to make life changes does not have a standard operating procedure. Best practices may vary from person to person. There are no regulations or standards to follow. Left to our own devices, we may procrastinate and never quite get around to making the change. Or if unsure of how to even begin, we may feel anxious and overwhelmed, giving up before even starting. I have experienced both scenarios and know I will again.

I am a quality assurance specialist, and I am also a human being. I have made many changes to myself and aspects of my personal life, as well as having supported many change orders and product changes throughout my career. Reflecting on these experiences, I realize there are universal themes within the change control process and change orders that can be extended to any kind of change.

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Connecting and Collaborating: How Scientists Across the Globe are Supporting Each Other During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Many research labs around the world have temporarily closed their doors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while others are experiencing unprecedented need for reagents to perform viral testing. This urgency has led many scientists to make new connections and build creative, collaborative solutions.

“In labs that are still open for testing or other purposes, there’s certainly heightened anxiety,” says Tony Vanden Bush, Client Support Specialist. “I feel that right now, I need to help them deal with that stress however possible.”

Last week, Tony was contacted by a lab at the University of Minnesota that was preparing to serve as a secondary COVID-19 testing facility for a nearby hospital lab. The two labs needed to process up to 6,000 samples per day, and the university lab was far short of that capacity.

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Working from Home: Finding Productivity in this New Normal

During this time of adjusting to a new normal, one of the most difficult things that I have had to get used to is being productive in my own home. Work from home (WFH) days are embraced by some people and not by others. For me, transitioning from working in an office and school setting, to working at-home and completing online courses, has led me on a search for answers about how to get the most out of my day. After creating a productive at-home work environment for me, I wanted to share some of my findings with you.

Here are some of the tips that I have found useful:

Section out a portion of your home for work only.

When I first started working from home, I moved room to room working wherever I felt most comfortable. I soon found this affected my organization and time management, so I started keeping all my work in one area. Now, as I sit here writing this post, I know where all of my work is, and I also know that when I walk out of this area I can ‘power down’ my mind knowing I no longer have to do work.

Power off your electronics when not working.

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