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Chili Peppers on Fire

They say that variety is the spice of life and my job is spicy. I enjoy spicy food and I love my job. You know that awkward lingering question that comes out fast when you meet new people; “So, what do you do?” I think I have answered that over 1,000 different ways over the 7 years I have worked at ABS, doing so with a big smile as I explain my role as Biospecimen Operations Manager. I don’t just show up to work. I come to work to get important, productive responsibilities accomplished. I am a curious person which is why I chose biotechnology as my major in college. I like to ask questions and enjoy a challenge. I am fortunate that my position fits me perfectly. I could list my job description and responsibilities to give an idea of what I do. But that is not how I describe what I do. I get to accomplish so many different assignments.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is building new relationships with sample collection sites. I work with people in a wide variety of different roles at organizations that operate on the front lines of patient treatments and life-saving efforts. Most of my communication is virtual but it is fulfilling when I meet people in person on a site visit, audit or conference. Navigating our client’s projects with collection sites to ensure the highest quality and fastest turnaround time of biospecimens is a critical aspect of my position.

I also have the opportunity to support our business development staff during the request phase. Some of the biospecimen requests we get are easy and routine. Normally, I provide pricing and an estimated turnaround time for a multitude of samples including blood, cells, FFPEs, and a variety of tissues. Unusual sample requests are my favorite as they pose a unique set of challenges to overcome. Those requests might involve feces, urine, porcine reproductive organs, mouse intestines, semen, saliva or cryopreserved cells. It is a pleasure to be involved. I always look forward to a conference call with a client to talk about their project plans and how we can help aid their research as it is in this early stage of advancing pre-clinical drug discovery where so much is possible.

I am also trusted to manage our biorepository and support staff. In the middle of the night I could get an alert from our alarm system and come to transfer all samples to a back-up freezer because I am dedicated to the integrity of every single sample. We work as a team to ensure all samples are where they are supposed to be. We ensure the appropriate informed consent information is on file with corresponding donor information in a searchable database. In addition, any given week could involve dissection and preparation of a human or animal brain, colons or monocyte cell isolation from tonsils.

You might be thinking, ”Emily, wow, you do so many different things, how do you keep up? Don’t you make mistakes?”  Well those are legitimate concerns, thanks for asking! I stay ahead by utilizing automated processes and organized tasks with anticipation of time sensitive requests.  I do make mistakes. But the good thing is, management allows me to make them without fear of repercussion.  We will always address the root cause to ensure the same mistake does not happen twice. Most of our current processes work well and the SOPs that I write are the results of change inspired by a opportunities I wish to forget.

To summarize, I get to do something that challenges me every day in a healthy work environment with all the flavored seltzer water that I can drink as an extra bonus! When I read articles about new treatments for diseases, I like to think I had a little spicy part in helping make the world a better place. What could be better than loving what you do?

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