By Natalie Losada
Have you ever wondered, especially now during the global pandemic, who is performing and developing the techniques for large genetic studies? Many researchers require the help of Genewiz, a company that provides R&D genomics services to pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, academic researchers, and start-ups. Genewiz is known for their affordable, reliable data, technical support, and for their most popular services: Sanger Sequencing and Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). On June 10th 2020, Rutgers iJOBS held a fun and informative Virtual Career Panel with four scientists and one HR representative from Genewiz.
The four scientists were Dr. Nitu Bansal, an Assistant Manager in the Technical Support team, Dr. Tammy Joska, a Manager of the Technical Support team, Dr. Cassandra Koole, part of the Project Management team, Dr. Bhaven Mehta, an Assistant Manager at Genewiz, and Aaron White, the HR representative. All of the scientists completed their Ph.D.s in fields relating to Molecular Biology and/or Pharmacology, and all held research positions in industry or a post-doctoral fellowship before being hired at Genewiz. If you would like to learn more about the scientists, click their names or read the iJOBS bios in the past events page. This article covers all the questions the panelists answered about the work environment at Genewiz, and the hiring process.
Working at Genewiz, there are many different positions available, including laboratory and managerial positions. If you’re a student researcher, or work in a lab setting, you might be hesitate to abandon the benchwork for a “desk job” at Genewiz, but rest assured that all team members are involved in important scientific reasoning and data analysis, whether they’re at a bench or a desk. The panelists explained that the team members who interact with the customers commonly help customers through experimental setups and data analysis. Additionally, many of the managerial team members who neither interact with the customers nor perform experiments are nonetheless continuously using their scientific knowledge. Dr. Bhaven Mehta explained, they participate “all the way through the scientific process without ever putting hands on a pipet”, as managers need to understand the science, business, and customer needs in order to organize a team or project. As Dr. Nitu Bansal put it, the managers, and the technical support team in particular, are “the bridges between the customer and the laboratory team members”. If you have experience doing hands-on work in a laboratory, a technical support position could potentially be the perfect fit. Dr. Bansal explained that, as technical support, you will sometimes need to answer customer’s questions about how to improve their data, so having been a scientist in the lab gives you the background you need to explain or suggest experiments. Dr. Cassandra Koole also shared that “having been a customer of Genewiz makes it easier to do my job – understand what the customer wants and give them the answers they need”. Whatever position you end up in, you’ll notice a unique feature about Genewiz that Dr. Koole explained; “academia can be competitive, but Genewiz is extremely collaborative and supportive”.
“Academia can be competitive, but Genewiz is extremely collaborative and supportive” – Dr. Cassandra Koole.
Aaron White reinforced the collaborative and supportive ideals of Genewiz by explaining that after many years of working in biotech, pharma, and academia, he concluded that Genewiz “being a smaller company, can give you a more well-rounded experience than you would get in pharma”. However, Genewiz does have certain expectations of the team members they hire.
The panelists were able to thoroughly explain what Genewiz looks for when hiring as they answered questions from the scientist’s perspective and the HR perspective. There were many questions about requirements and the main take away was experience is favored over degrees. Someone with an M.S. and experience with gene sequencing in industry is preferred over someone with a Ph.D. in an unrelated field. They usually hire people who hold degrees in Molecular Biology, but sometimes biochemists have the experience necessary to join the Genewiz team. Fast learners who are adaptable to new situations are also preferred because they are willing and able to apply what they’ve learned to new tasks. Genewiz does not look specifically for post-doc experience, however, they are always “looking for experience” because “knowledge is the feather in the cap” as Dr. Nitu Bansal creatively explained. That experience can come from academic research, industry, or a post-doc, as long as you become familiar with the appropriate topics. Dr. Tammy Joska gave examples of questions she would even ask new hires, such as “how many constructs have you assembled? what’s the most complex cloning you’ve done? and with how many fragments have you assembled a plasmid?” That being said, Genewiz, like most companies, will train you once you are hired. They confirm that you understand your job well before allowing you to work independently. They also help you to gain more experience once you’re hired by encouraging everyone to shift to new departments. With a Ph.D. you should be able to “apply your expertise to a lot of places,” as Aaron White explained, and getting to know different parts of the business helps you serve your department better. Switching departments too frequently, however, is not encouraged, so switches will happen one or two times over a couple of years. Bottom line is that if you lack experience, Genewiz may be able to help you catch up, but training will take longer and you might not be able to fully understand problems the customers or laboratory team members are facing. So, make it a priority to get hands on experience before being hired.
The panelists had an overall positive attitude towards their careers at Genewiz. Those who were new, like Dr. Cassandra Koole, and those who had been there long enough for a few promotions, like Dr. Bhaven Mehta, all felt that they were contributing enough to the scientific process, and to the company as whole, to not miss the bench too much. It becomes very clear just from their short motto, “Solid science. Superior service” that Genewiz wants to hire people who think about the science from start to end, are knowledgeable about gene sequencing, and are team players.
If you’re interested in working for Genewiz, there are “plenty of Ph.D. positions available now” and internship opportunities during summers (including this summer despite the pandemic). If you’re an international student, they will sponsor you on a case by case basis, so it is worth it to apply! You can even apply to more than one position at once, so long as you disclose what positions you applied for to the Genewiz representative at the time of your interview.
Editor: Monal Mehta