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Career spotlight: R&D group leader
Takara Bio is an innovative and growing company, and we are proud of our friendly corporate culture in which creativity, teamwork, and intellectual diligence are recognized and rewarded. Our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction shows in everything we do, and this is how we attract top talent to our world-class team.
Throughout our Career Spotlight blog series, we hope to show you what it's like to be a team member contributing to the advancement of "good science." Here, we've interviewed Nidhi Gupta, our clinical NGS R&D Group Leader, about her career path and what it’s like to work at Takara Bio.
How long have you been with Takara Bio and what drew you to work here?
I have worked here for 1 year and 8 months now, initially joining as a Scientist II in October 2019. Shortly after, I was promoted to R&D Group Leader (clinical NGS) and have continued to work in this position since September 2020. I had always known this company has a large and diverse R&D group, and during my interview I saw first-hand how closely they worked together. This was a great opportunity for me to learn and work in collaboration with people from other fields.
What is your training background and how did it help you prepare for your current career?
I completed my bachelor’s degree in medical sciences and had started my master’s degree in human genetics in India. At one point during my master’s program, I received an opportunity to attend an 8-week internship at Harvard Medical School in Boston. I worked on a couple projects there and my PI was so impressed with my work that he offered me a full-time position…so I dropped out of the master’s program and moved to the States.
My PI advised me to study further so I enrolled in the PhD program at UConn Health Center in Farmington, CT in Genetics and Developmental Biology. There, I received intensive training in cell and molecular biology, even filing my first patent. After my PhD, I moved to California to be with my family.
In California, I started working at Centrillion Tech on several products involving microarrays and library preparation for sequencing. Then, I got a chance to work at a startup called Shield Diagnostics, where I helped establish a CLIA lab and developed qPCR based LDTs. I also worked on Nanopore sequencing-based products. However, the company closed due to lack of funding and that’s when I joined Takara Bio. I believe I've learned about and gotten trained on many different fields, which has made me strong at developing and troubleshooting.
What motivates you to wake up and go to work?
New challenges and my awesome team. I love working with my team members and guiding them through different projects and processes, helping them creatively solve problems. I am always excited to learn from our collaborators and work closely alongside the marketing team to find out how we are doing and what plans should be for the future. I feel like every day I learn something new and get to contribute to the company’s goals, even if it’s a very small contribution 😊.
What does a day in your work life look like?
It usually starts with meetings—sometimes the whole day is completely filled with meetings! I like to review projects and data when I get a chance. There are questions from customers through tech support that my team works to address. I discuss the data analysis and experimental plans with the team members as needed. I also do research for new projects and collaborations, try to read papers, and attend webinars.
What’s the most exciting thing you have worked on while at Takara Bio?
I have worked on so many projects here, both successful and unsuccessful, but my favorite one was a new version of our full-length chemistry on the ICELL8 system, which I was not even leading. This project was considered very important for the company, hence many other scientists from several departments (and pretty much whole NGS instrument team) came together to plan and execute it. Not only did my team help the project move quickly to completion (I called it a great breakthrough over the Thanksgiving 2020 break), but I also helped in planning and coordinating between scientists. I believe that was a great project where everyone came together and made it possible.
I know there are many scientists out there looking to move into more managerial roles as their careers progress. What advice do you have for scientists moving into these roles?
As a group leader, I believe a person must be very supportive to the team, encourage and help them when needed (and, if necessary, to be ready to get their own hands dirty in the lab, of course). They must also work with both the marketing and business development teams to identify opportunities for the future. Basically, be ready to take on any new challenge!
Finally, what do you do when you are not working?
In my free time, I like to work in the yard, and I love to go hiking, biking, and camping.
Thank you for showing us what it's like to be an R&D Group Leader, Nidhi!
Stay tuned for more career spotlights.
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