Jenna Gravley is the Research Technician Supervisor for the Research Cell Bank at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She is a graduate of the Shoreline Community College, Biotechnology Lab Specialist program. Below, Jenna describes the skills she uses regularly and the responsibilities of her position.
What biotechnology program did you attend?
What degree/certificate(s) do you hold?
Biotechnology Lab Specialist Certificate
I manage the daily operations and laboratory staff of the Research Cell Bank (RCB) Laboratory and direct all aspects of lab projects and contracts. This includes preparing project and fiscal year budgets, monitoring all projects to ensure they remain on budget and on time. I also address and resolve technical and procedural problems and advise technicians as well as establishing and maintaining laboratory standards, quality control ideology (including developing and implementing protocols and SOPs), and operational records. I also perform the duties of a Research Technician which includes blood processing, human cell culture, DNA extraction, and equipment evaluation and validation.
What are some techniques that you commonly use?
> Blood processing for PBMC/Serum/Plasma
> DNA Extraction
> Human Cell Culture
> Data Analysis
> DNA aliquoting
> Equipment QC
> Sample banking
> Gel Electrophoresis
Please describe what you do in an average day
An average day starts with responding to any customer emails that came in overnight. I then will clean out the previous days racks and trays from the bleach buckets and QC my equipment. Next it's on to check my cell cultures, at any one time I will have between 50-150 cultures going, each culture represents a unique individual. Depending on whether anything needs to be frozen or taken for DNA I will either do that or move on to customer DNA orders. We ship DNA to customers both nationally and internationally, so we will have around 2-10 orders going at any one time. In the afternoon I will either ship orders out, aliquot DNA, extract DNA, or process blood. During the entire day I am continuing to respond to any customer inquiries and making sure the lab is running smoothly. I also keep an eye on all the projects and my technicians to ensure everything is going well and being done within our high standards of quality control.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in a biotech career?
There are two main directions to go with a biotech career (commercial or non-profit), each with there own positives and negatives. Commercial offers more money, but less stability as companies will go through huge lay-offs for various reasons. Non-profit offers less money, but somewhat more stability. You usually depend on grants, but will know way ahead of time if a grant is ending or running low on money. If you like biotech techniques but are not interested in research there is also the option of working in a service lab. These labs offer biotech services to non-profit and corporate companies and can offer even more job stability.
Whichever path you choose to take it is also important to really think about what you want to do long term, and make sure you treat each job with respect. In the biotech industry it often seems like everyone knows everyone, so you always want to leave a good impression.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Good luck! Biotech can be both challenging and rewarding. If you have the option of doing an internship make sure you pick one that aligns with your long term interests. You never know, an internship may turn into a job. If not, it still gives you valuable real-life skills and connections that may lead to a great job.