A Day in the Life of a CDoT Research Scientist

Doug, CDOT Research Scientist in Medicinal Chemistry

Doug Orsi“As a Research Scientist in Chemistry, I have been given the opportunity to directly manage staff and also chemists from partnering CROs (contract research organizations). I enjoy managing staff, particularly when they bring me chemistry questions and I can help guide their work, explain why we do things a certain way and just help them become better chemists. But I also benefit from their questions and perspectives, as this lets me see problems in a different way and move beyond my own chemistry biases. CRO chemists require less day-to-day support. I send them compound designs, papers, and procedures and often the methods they use can help improve my knowledge of chemistry. On my current project, I also work closely with chemists from a pharma partner; we often discuss compound design options and share challenges.

In addition to growing my management and chemistry skills, working at CDoT on drug discovery projects has also allowed me to work more closely with peers in other scientific functions. I am learning the language of biochemistry, biophysics, ADME, pharmacokinetics, and more. My peers are always willing to meet to explain concepts or experiments. As a young scientist, CDoT has given me a nice combination of autonomy and support. I have ownership over my projects and often present to leadership of both CDoT and our pharma collaborator. But I can also access CRO resources and the support of my project colleagues and peers — everyone really pulls together to make our efforts successful.

I’m motivated to come to work everyday because chemistry is fun — solving design challenges and using experimental data to find new hypotheses is energizing. But I am also motivated by the meaning of what we do here at CDoT. Even if our work doesn’t result in developing a drug, our work still helps to advance human health by adding to the overall knowledge of therapeutics.”

 

Guillaume, CDoT Research Scientist in Structural Biology/Protein Science

“There’s no normal here at CDoT - every day brings something different. It’s not just ‘rinse and repeat’. I’m responsible for achieving the scientific objectives for my drug discovery project. This includes determining how - for example I write protocols and develop constructs - as well as the timeline.

I particularly enjoy the ability to learn new things and then apply them to my job. For example, I’m working on an initiative to automate the protein screening process with a liquid handler. At CDoT we have lots of knowledgeable, competent people and lots of instruments. In addition, the PIs (Primary Investigators) are proximal and accessible - this gives me access to world experts in technologies.

It’s compelling to get to work with the research labs that are discovering novel targets. Broad really is at the forefront of target identification. Another great aspect of working at CDoT is the flexible working hours. CDoT and Broad are very family friendly.”

 

Jamie, CDoT Research Scientist in Biochemistry

“Before I came to the Broad and CDoT, I never said that I loved my job. But I love my job here and definitely feel like a ‘Broadie.’ I enjoy working with my colleagues, who are incredibly smart and talented. I like to problem solve with my project team members, especially through impromptu discussions at the whiteboard. Scientists at CDoT enjoy helping others solve problems and will always take time to do this. The issues we discuss are not always scientific; we support each other with non-scientific challenges such as strategies to prioritize work. I also enjoy mentoring and teaching others, especially interns and entry level staff because it is very rewarding to see them using the skills that I have taught them.  

Since I have come to CDoT, I have been able to expand my technical skills, mainly by using my biochemistry knowledge to tackle difficult projects and also by experimenting with using mass spectrometry in a variety of applications. Becoming a project leader has also allowed me to think about science on a bigger scale, as well as to exercise my skills in leading productive conversations.

I find that CDoT is a great mix of academia and industry. We work on important, innovative drug targets and also have the resources we need to move our projects forward. I like that I can utilize my scientific abilities to help people.”

 

Jane, CDoT Therapeutic Scientist in Translational Pharmacology

“In my position as a Cellular Pharmacology scientist at CDoT, I really get to use my creativity. When I start working on a new project, I have to quickly become an expert by reading the available literature and grasping the important points. I often need to decide the assay format to use for my experiments. To make this decision, I research all available and possible techniques and combine them in different ways to create a new experiment. When my experiments work and the data matches the biochemical or biophysical assay data, it makes me very satisfied.

At CDoT, even negative data is appreciated and has value for what it tells us. For example, on one of my projects the results of my experiments did not support the project’s hypothesis, but pointed to activity from a variant protein. The other scientists on the project were open minded and, based on my carefully designed experiment, changed the project’s primary hypothesis.

I have learned a lot by working as a CDoT scientist including learning about new assay formats such as the Fluorescence Imaging Plate Reader (FLIPR). I’ve also been mentored and encouraged to grow my presentation skills.  My colleagues at CDoT and the Broad are always willing to share ideas and help each other figure things out. I can talk to anyone at the Broad if I have a question. Likewise, I always try to help others — in particular I like to keep a check on the functioning of equipment and instruments in the lab, which ensures that experiments go smoothly for my fellow scientists.”

 

Jason, CDoT Research Scientist in Translational Pharmacology

“Every day at CDoT is different and I don’t feel like I’m just turning the crank on something. On average, I spend about 50% of my time in the lab, designing assays and working to obtain proof of concept.  I get to work in scientific areas where no path has yet been carved and therefore, I have to come up with a way to do something new. I also spend time mentoring junior lab staff in assay execution, supervising execution, and helping to interpret their results.

The other 50% of my time is non-lab work, which includes my activities as a Project Team Leader. As a Project Leader I am responsible for planning project activities, determining the essential experiments and deciding what tools and resources are needed. I also have to work out how best to communicate our progress. In all these activities, I work with my project team partners in our pharma collaboration, and really value the back and forth intellectual dialogue with them.

I also get to spend time discovering Broad science, through Broad-wide seminars, talks and events. These give me a window into academic research at the Broad, which can have a different flavor than therapeutics. I get to see where the scientific edge is at the Broad and have an idea about what new science is coming next.”

 

Reyna, CDoT Bioautomation Engineer

"A typical day as an automation engineer involves a lot of problem solving – from assay optimizations to equipment repair, we encounter a lot of unique challenges on a daily basis. I like to bring a new perspective to project scientists. 

As specialists, we can offer solutions that they might not have considered and build excitement for the possibilities of automation. I try to meet with scientists to review their process if it’s a new assay, or their data if we’re working actively on their screen. If there are areas for improvement, I brainstorm with the scientists to increase throughput, consistency, or both. I then program or update existing programs on our integrated robotic systems or compact liquid handlers. The programs are then tested by the Bioautomation team and the project team before screening officially begins. In addition to providing assay solutions, I also perform regular instrument maintenance and help users with troubleshooting, training, and decoding errors from manual instrument use. Each day brings its own challenges and I enjoy providing solutions to my colleagues.
 
Part of providing assay solutions to scientists is making sure to keep up with new technologies. My favorite way to do this is by attending the annual Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) conference, but we also network with peers, attend webinars about new equipment launches, and schedule live demonstrations for equipment we think would improve assay workflows.
 
My team is amazing – we have a lot of fun together, and we’re constantly learning new things from each other. Working at Broad, I get to enjoy working with varied and interesting projects. I’m not a project scientist, but I get to use my mechanical skills and my background in biology to progress the science happening at the Broad."