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.
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.
I could quote all kinds of facts, figures and studies that support the importance of positive adult influences in a child’s life and the impact of mentoring relationships. This is one case, however, where I believe you will learn a lot more reading about one volunteer’s personal experience. This month, I will tell you about Amy Kruchten, a Promega employee who serves our community in a number of ways. Amy gives us a brief description of her work at Second Harvest Food Pantry and with the Madison Coalition of the Elderly. She goes into more detail about her work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County (Amy is on the left in the picture with Bucky Badger, her Little Sister is on the right).
1. How long have you worked here at Promega and what do you do?
Six years, I take care of the [document] scanning for several departments throughout the company.
If you are a scientist you know the American Chemical Society (ACS) for their high quality journals (all 39 of them) and for their annual meetings and conferences. But did you know the ACS also focuses on community education and outreach? The ACS mission is “Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.” According to their website, ACS has 189 local chapters at colleges and universities around the country. Bharat Mankani (in the white coat in the photo) tells us about his work with the ACS chapter at Texas A&M.
Promega employees earn their living researching, marketing, manufacturing, writing, teaching, shipping, and designing. What do they do when they are off the clock? For the next few months, I will post interviews with my coworkers describing how they give back to their communities in their spare time. This month, Nadine Nassif describes her work with the Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) and their groundbreaking ringworm treatment. The photo on the left shows Nadine keeping some cats company during a DCHS event.
How long have you worked here at Promega and what do you do?
I joined Promega in November 1997, so just over 13 years. I’m a research scientist in the Genetic Analysis group.
(Author’s note: Nadine develops kits that are used by researchers for purifying DNA and studying gene expression.)
What do you do at DCHS?
Most of the work I do with Dane County Humane Society involves the cat population. Specifically:
Cleaning cages and feeding the cats.
Socializing cats; in particular, the ones that are shy or scared or over-stimulated, the ones that need the extra attention in order to acclimate to the busy shelter environment and find a home.
Shooting and editing YouTube videos for the shelter; some of the videos spotlight various cats and dogs that are available for adoption, while some highlight various programs that the shelter is trying to promote.
Fostering cats in my home, often kittens that are too small to be available for adoption; I raise them until they’re about 9 weeks old, at which point they can be neutered and are sent back to the shelter to find new homes.
Science is based on extensive collaborative efforts from exchanging ideas and formulating hypotheses to reviewing scientific papers and replicating published work. Discussing an idea or an experimental method with a colleague helps to clarify thinking and point out flaws in the idea or experiment. Social media and its tools offer the possibility of an even greater perspective with access to a wider scientific audience, helping refine the discussed method or idea even further than a one-on-one interaction.