Inside the Research Rotation Program at Burst

on 08.31.2017 / by Daniel Thrasher / 0 comments in BioTalk, Research

It’s not often you find something everyone can agree on.

After all, we live in a world of cat people versus dog people, vegetarians versus meat lovers, and even Mayweather versus McGregor.

But here at Burst Biologics, I couldn’t find anybody who wasn’t positively glowing with praise about our company’s research rotation program. In my talks with the company’s research Ph.Ds and lab technicians, it dawned on me how special this program really is.

Lab Techs Versus Research Ph.Ds

To understand why research rotation is such an important part of Burst Biologics, you need to understand the role of a lab technician.

We have several lab technicians who work in the laboratory every day, and unlike at other companies, all of our lab techs have at least a bachelor’s degree in science. Due to their qualifications, they’re responsible for several key job duties:

  1. Processing, manufacturing, and packaging the company’s products in a sterile environment.
  2. Validating processes.
  3. Ensuring all regulations are followed.
  4. Maintaining and cleaning the laboratory.
  5. Taking care of equipment.

The bulk of their work ultimately revolves around keeping up the lab and producing enough of each type of product to meet demand. As for the staff of research Ph.Ds, this group uses lab space to conduct assays and experiments for research and development.

Research laboratory vials

In most companies, the laboratory department is totally separate from research and development (R&D), but at Burst, the two departments intersect – and this is largely because of the research rotation program.

What is the Research Rotation Program?

Every six weeks, a lab tech will get one week of research duties, where they work closely with a Ph.D. During their research week, the lab tech will handle data analysis, take pictures of experiments, and cover other tasks that are commonly associated with the role of research assistant.

One of the company Ph.Ds, Dr. Trillitye Paullin, told me that there’s a 100 percent participation rate in research among our lab techs, likening the rotation to an internal internship. The lab techs not only get to do hands-on research work during their designated week, but they also get an intimate look at how the Ph.Ds approach their projects. They even get the opportunity to use cutting edge lab equipment like the MagPix on the job!

Research Experience Matters

In case it wasn’t clear yet, this opportunity is a big deal for someone who’s starting out in the science field. The lab techs explained that when you’re pursuing a bachelor’s in science, you have to be exceedingly lucky and talented to do research work under a professor.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average student-faculty ratio for colleges is 18:1, a ratio that isn’t nearly small enough to allow professors to work closely with each and every one of their students.

This fact is particularly problematic for science majors, because it means that research opportunities in academia are limited – and a lack of research has implications for their futures. It calls to mind the old adage about needing experience to get a job, and needing a job to get experience: without having prior research under their belts, a lot of opportunities are closed off to aspiring professionals in science.

What the Lab Techs Say About Research Rotation

One of the lab techs told me that he’d had a year of work experience in another lab before coming to Burst Biologics. “My previous job didn’t give me great actual experience as far as what a lab tech does,” he said. “Burst is a great place to learn a lot as a lab tech, and research weeks are the weeks I look forward to most.”

Lab technician at work in research rotation

He wasn’t the only one excited about the chance to do research. Another lab tech told me, “I look forward to rotation. We get to be an actual collaborator with the Ph.Ds. They trust us and ask us for our advice and opinions, and we get to see what R&D is up to firsthand.”

Everyone agrees that the opportunity to do research is a great draw for our qualified lab technicians – even the ones that have moved on from Burst. Two of our lab techs already parlayed their on-the-job research experience into graduate school programs, including one at Boise State University and another at PA school in Montana.

We’re excited to see them bettering their education, and we certainly will be excited to welcome them back to the team after they graduate!

Breaking up the Routine

Aside from the value of gaining research experience, there’s another great reason for research rotation. The lab tech supervisor explained to me that although lab tech work is crucial, it can get repetitive. The lab tech’s job requires the precise implementation of specific processes on a daily basis.

Fortunately, research rotation switches things up for the lab techs, engaging their critical thinking skills and granting them greater perspective that they can take back to their regular role. Because it’s their job to actually manufacture our products, lab technicians can take what they learn in research and use it to improve procedural design and validation for product development.

So Happy Together

In the end, the research rotation program helps both sides. It’s important to integrate manufacturing and research to create new products that can be manufactured with efficacy. Integrating the two departments keeps everyone working on the same page, bouncing ideas off one another.

This arrangement is also great for the Ph.Ds. Conducting experiments involves a lot of moving parts, so if they can get help every week from a lab tech, that enables researchers to work on their papers, design new studies, and interpret the results of their experiments.

The research rotation program is just one more way that Burst Biologics sets itself apart. It’s not always easy to find the win-win – but we’re making it a priority to do just that.

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