When my alarm clock goes off in the morning, it is go time. I like to be “lab ready” the second I walk in at 7:00 am, in case I have a busier morning. Most days though, I walk into the office space and am greeted by my friendly coworkers. Our Cambridge lab runs 24/7, so our third shift is wrapping things up as I open my laptop. During the height of Covid, I didn’t get to see team members on other shifts, so it is always nice to chat with them about how the night went.
You can always tell when the lab status schedule comes out. The conversation dwindles as everyone plans out their day. This schedule contains all the sample plates that need processing and who is responsible for getting them done. It also contains relevant laboratory support tasks needed, such as reagent preparation. One might initially think that working in the lab is primarily independent work, but at Foundation Medicine, we know that patients get their results faster when we collaborate and work together as a team. I always like to look at how busy my coworkers are, and help if I have the capacity.
Foundation Medicine has three tests that are used by oncologists and care teams in the clinic: our two FDA-approved tests, the tissue-based FoundationOne®CDx test and the blood-based FoundationOne®Liquid CDx test; and our FoundationOne®Heme test, for patients with hematologic malignancies, sarcomas or solid tumors where RNA sequencing is desired. We break these three tests down into several distinct steps in order to maximize efficiency: extraction, library construction, hybrid capture, sequencing, and three quality control steps. Through my years with the company, I have been encouraged to train and get to work in many of these areas. I aim to one day know them all! On any given day, you can find me processing in at least one of these areas.
I joined Foundation Medicine as Molecular Technician right after I graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Diagnostic Genetic Sciences. I spent my last semester interning at the Clinical Genomics and Advanced Technologies lab at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, which is where I was first exposed to next generation sequencing bench work. One of the most important things I learned in school is to think about the patient behind every sample. I have taken that mantra with me to Foundation Medicine. I treat every patient sample with the highest level of respect and attention to detail, as if the sample is of someone I know. This is a perspective that is key to being successful here. We work hard, and we know our efforts directly impact the lives of others.
Foundation Medicine is a fast-paced work environment and we are always looking for innovative ways to improve our lab processes. This may seem daunting, but employees can grow just as fast as the company. I started as a Molecular Technician and have progressed to a Molecular Technologist II in a little over two years. Much of this growth was the result of the support I received from my supervisors. They have always provided me with opportunities to excel. My skills in the lab have certainly come a long way from when I was an intern. Success here is not simply measured in the number of samples you process. We have four cultural values that we use as our guiding principles: patients, passion, collaboration, and innovation. By trying to embody these four values, I have learned how to speak up, ask for help, lead, and empower my colleagues to do the same. At Foundation Medicine, every employee can see their impact. Everyone on our team contributes to providing the highest standard of patient care and everyone has a voice.