Q: What is your background and what led you to where you are now?
A: My education and training were focused in chemistry but I have zigzagged all over the map in my career. Soon after finishing my PhD, I started working at a technology company in Silicon Valley. During this time, I became very interested in learning more about business as a complement to my science training. Eventually I went back to school and received my MBA at the UW evening program, while I worked at the University of Washington during the day. After that program, I was recruited to work for the Ultrasound organization in Philips, in Bothell. I was in Supply Chain and was responsible for New Product Introduction (NPI) for their premium ultrasound systems. My job was to take products coming out of R&D and work all aspects of the supply chain to get them in to full volume production.
When a friend recommended I check out the Research Program Manager position at IV Lab, I was very intrigued at the opportunity to move back upstream, and get back to my research roots in science. I hoped this position would be another way for me to combine my science background with my business education.
Q: What inspires you most about what you do?
A: Nothing is better than bringing the right people together to collaborate to accomplish something. That is a lot of what I do every day. I have a nice, broad view of all that the Lab is doing, as well as Global Good. So I love making connections to bring teams together. When teams are really empowered to bring their collective expertise to fruition, it just feels so good. Everyone I work with wants to do great work, and accomplish great things. Everyone is really smart on his or her own, but collectively, it is amazing what true teamwork can accomplish!
Q: What do you do at IV Lab?
A: As Research Program Manager, my focus is on pipeline development for eventual projects at IV Lab. For Global Good projects, I act as liaison between the Global Good team that identifies priorities and problems they would like to see addressed with technology, and IV Lab scientists and engineers that can provide potential solutions. I help scientists get early Initiatives pitched, funded and executed. The Initiatives focus on early exploratory research, which hopefully transition in to funded projects. I also work as a technical point when we pursue exploratory research with external collaborators. In addition, work with IV Lab staff and Global Good to identify, engage and develop relationships with external collaborators who can help us develop complete solutions.
Q: What do you bring to the IV Lab team that is unique or different than the rest of the team?
A: My experience in both science and business helps me bridge the two worlds. I can understand both aspects and connect the two. Early in my career, I was a chemist but in general, I can get the “gist” of the science behind what we are working on. Because of my inclination of science, I am able to comprehend different disciplines and understand what different scientific processes require. I have a desire to understand what the different disciplines bring to a project and I am able to pick things up quickly.
I also understand what it means to work on transitioning science and research into products that we want to commercialize and get out in distribution in our regions of interest – primarily low resource settings, in Africa. My MBA and my exposure to typical phase gate approach for development and release of new products at Philips also have helped me bridge the science and business worlds.
Q: What makes working at the Lab unique?
A: It’s a kooky place that is not quite academic, not quite corporate. It’s a great blend between the two. Also, I like that we really try to pull together cross functional teams to work on a problem together. The different perspectives make a huge difference. A biochemist working with an engineer, and collaborating with both external partners as well as the Global Good team brings both business and public health expertise to the picture.
Q: Who was an important influence along your path?
A: Well, always my mom. My mom had a high school education and always encouraged me to decide on my own how to chart my own path. She supported me and made enormous sacrifices.
Another big influence career-wise was my first manager out of college, when I worked as a chemist in a HPLC lab at Glaxo (when it was just called Glaxo, not GlaxoSmithKline). He was my first mentor and was the one who encouraged me to apply and go to graduate school to pursue my PhD in Chemistry.
Q: Who is your favorite scientist/engineer/inventor?
A: I am really digging Neil deGrasse Tyson right now. I love that he is taking science mainstream and making it fun and accessible to both adults and children. I also like that he always talks about where he came from, and remains both humble and reaches for the stars (ha ha, get it?) at the same time.
Q: What are you reading right now, business or pleasure?
A: I read a lot of books that have nothing to do with science or work, but I happen to be reading a book right now that I think both scientists and non-scientists would be interested in checking out. The book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is by Rebecca Skloot. Henrietta was a poor black woman whose cells were used to create the HeLa cell line in 1951, without her knowledge or consent. They became an important research tool that was used for countless medical breakthroughs, while Henrietta herself died from cancer in poverty. So far it is a fascinating story, with a lot of historical content. I also recently read the Alchemy of Air, which explores the story behind the Haber-Bosch process and it’s critical role in both world wars.
Q: Anything else you want to share?
A: A lot of people at IV Lab know this, but I also love to train and compete in Olympic weightlifting. It feels so good to lift heavy things regularly! Last year I competed quite a bit, including at the National Masters Championship in Louisiana. I won silver in my division. I really appreciate that folks who know I do this regularly ask me about it and encourage me. It’s a little quirky, but it’s something I enjoy. I have taken the last few months off from competing, but I am scheduled to compete again in May, locally. I still love to lift and kick major butt.