Meet Jennifer, Senior System Engineer at Roche Pleasanton
Tell us a bit about yourself.
While working towards my degree in Molecular & Cell Biology from UC Berkeley, (Go Bears!) I worked in academia (NASA and UCSF). After graduating, I gained more technical expertise, working at various startups specializing in PCR instrumentation ranging from a large autonomous sample prep/PCR anthrax system funded by the Department of Homeland Security to a PCR chip system that ran 5,184 (100nL) reactions at a time. I gained most of my classic product development knowledge while at BD Biosciences prior to joining Roche Sequencing. I grew up in the Bay Area (Fremont, CA) and went to school here, so I have been trying to catch up on travel in my free time (Indonesia, England, France, India, Thailand, Italy, and soon Japan). I also like to cook, run, rock climb, do yoga, & journal.
What is your current job?
I’m a Senior System Engineer currently leading the Applications Team within the Pre-Sequencing Automation team, working for Pierre-Luc Janvier.
Where did you study?
UC Berkeley (Molecular & Cell Biology).
In which Roche location are you currently working? What can you tell us about that location?
I’m currently working at Roche Sequencing Solutions in Pleasanton, CA, which I like to describe as a startup within a large company. The culture here is that we all work very hard, we work efficiently, and we work intelligently. All of us here are new (relatively) and came here for a reason: to do something innovative, challenging, and exciting. Oftentimes, particularly in the beginning, when we were still hiring, we had to “put on different hats” and work outside of our typical roles here to fill any gaps. Although we are all extremely motivated and driven, RSS Pleasanton has a friendly, collaborative culture here, as all of us (research, assay dev, systems) are working in the same labs. However, we still get the perks of working at a global company. For example, we recently got to attend the Roche System Engineering forum at the R&D Fair, where we got to meet fellow system engineers from all over the world. We also have a unique opportunity in that Roche Sequencing Solutions is comprised of many sites, so we get to collaborate with a lot of other sites for our work.
Why did you decide to join Roche Sequencing Solutions?
I’ve been interested in sequencing for a while and truly believe that this is the direction that personalized healthcare is headed. I’ve never been happy with the quality of my healthcare- (i.e. going to the doctor and getting a one size fits all medication). I do hope that our work will benefit many people in the future. When I was interviewing with Roche Sequencing and met my teammates, I felt very comfortable working with them, as I am used to a challenging, start-up like environment, but also appreciated the opportunities that Roche is able to provide.
From a high level please describe your projects from a technology perspective and how you think it impacts Personalized Health Care.
Our group is working on automating nucleic acid extraction and library prep workflows using liquid handling instrumentation. While I was in school, I was in research and did a lot of manual bench work. Since then, I’ve grown to appreciate what instrumentation and automation can offer such as decreased hands on time, errors, and variability. With the increased need to utilize NGS technologies for personalized health care, especially if we can bring NGS assays to the clinical market, we will need to provide a simple, elegant solution to a highly complex workflow. I believe that our team will be able to help drive us to that solution.
Quite honestly, this is the best team that I’ve ever worked with.
Quite honestly, (and I’ve told them this before), this is the best team that I’ve ever worked with. Of course, the work is very challenging, and therefore absolutely interesting. However, a job is still a job sometimes, and my team is ultimately, what keeps me happily coming to work every day, no matter how difficult things get. They are completely fabulous (Pierre-Luc, Ray, Arash, Mike, Parth, Patrick, Alan, & Rebecca). Pierre-Luc has successfully created a team filled with respect and collaboration, without creating a negative, competitive environment, which I’ve see all too many times before. You would think after spending the majority of my time with coworkers, I would want to have nothing to do with them once I’m off work, but often times we’ll get together after work for beer or go out on the weekends. As one of my team mates said to me the other day, “We’re not only coworkers, but we’re friends, first and foremost. We are a work family.” Because we have such a great synergy, the quality of our work improves as well, because we can always depend on each other to deliver quality results.
How is your job connected to “doing now what patients need next”?
I have worked on PCR instrumentation and flow cytometry in my previous roles. As these are older technologies, we were really improving on technologies that have been on the market for a long time. Here at Roche Sequencing Solutions, we are striving to predict what our patients and customers will need and be first to the clinical NGS market. I find that to be very exciting, and something that I remind myself of everyday.
Would you advise job seekers who want to join us?
Yes, I already have. (I encouraged Alan & Rebecca to join our team, which they did!) Roche, as a company, is a great place to work. It is really rare to work for a company that makes you feel like you matter, the way Roche does. Roche really takes care of the employees here. Consequently, Roche attracts a lot of talent; there are a lot of highly intelligent people who have a lot of great work experience. I’ve been learning so much from them every single day, which is another reason why I remain so happy here.