A Day in the Life of a CDoT Research Associate

Dan, CDoT Research Associate in Discovery Sciences

“I spend about 80% of my time in the lab, preparing and setting up assays, running assays and then performing analysis and de-convoluting the data. About half of my assays are based on previous work, but the other half is based on newly developed methods. I decide how to approach my work, but I get advice from others. None of the supervisors at CDoT are “helicopter supervisors” unless you need it and I decide on my own hours - I know what needs to be done and I can decide when to work on things. 

I present my own data at project team meetings and functional meetings, usually in the form of slides, which incorporate the data, my analysis and my suggested next steps. All of us have responsibility for particular pieces of equipment, and this includes maintenance, answering questions on the equipment, cleaning it, replacing parts, training and working out pricing for external use.

My group is some of the best people I’ve met. We are laid back, but serious. There is a strong community feeling at the Broad and I have no trepidation initiating a conversation with anyone. I’m also involved in BroadRATS, the affinity group for RAs. This group brings people at the RA level together to talk about their experiences and career development – it’s also a social group.

It’s also exciting to think that someday, someone could be taking a compound that was in an assay that I worked on.”

 

Michelle, CDoT Research Associate in Translational Pharmacology

“As a CDOT RA in the Translational Pharmacology group, the majority of my time is spent in the lab running cell-based assays.  I enjoy the challenge of helping develop and optimize assays to be used in drug screening, target validation and SAR in collaboration with project leads and medicinal chemists.  As an RA, there is always data to be delivered, and I like that I have ownership of my data here and get to work on my data analysis and presentation skills.  I have really expanded my technical expertise in the short time that I’ve been here with a variety of assay types and instrumentation.  I also have the opportunity to train more junior RAs in running assays and analyzing data.  From my experience, while supported by supervisors and project team members, RAs in CDOT get to work quite independently, which has helped me learn and grow professionally and gain confidence in my scientific abilities and decision-making.  

As members of CDOT we all work hard at multi-tasking with several therapeutics projects on our plates at any given time, so it is important to feel that my input and contributions are appreciated here.  Beyond all of that, there is the unique experience of working within the larger community of the Broad Institute.  It is truly motivating to come to work at a place where you are surrounded by amazing science on a daily basis.  

The scientific exposure alone is worth being here for, but the Broad is also very committed to the overall well-being of its researchers with all kinds of benefits ranging from yoga and meditation to a variety of affinity groups, like the Broad RATS.  As a working mother, I especially appreciate the flexibility of the workday here and feel that I have a good work-life balance with the ability to get things done in a way that makes sense for me personally.”

 

Jean, CDoT Engineer in Bioautomation

“I spend about 70% of my day in the lab, where I am part traffic cop, part architect.  I use my technical expertise to automate protocols that scientists have already developed and inject new technology resources to make experiments more efficient and improve the data quality, like using a liquid handler to completely automate any pipetting.  But I also develop new ideas, spec out new technology and instruments, and develop new and improved workflows.

In order to be successful at my job, I have to communicate very effectively.  I need to determine what the scientist’s needs are and communicate what can be accomplished.  I also get to learn on the job, sometimes very quickly.  I’ve gained coding skills, learned about database infrastructure and have experimented with the limits of our instrumentation.  Every day, I build mental models and solve problems.

People at CDoT and the Broad are interesting. They are open minded and curious individuals which informs both our scientific and personal conversations. This great collection of people leads to a great community.  There is also a wide diversity of science at the Broad, it’s like a science candy store.”