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Elyse Cooper


Year of Graduation:  2009
Major:  Biology
Graduate School: Boston University - Biomedical Forensic Science
Current Position: Diagnostic Scientist, Newport Labs

Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working.
I am a diagnostic scientist at Newport Labs, a company that makes custom vaccines for animals. I work in the diagnostic lab and basically am responsible for conducting the DNA sequencing of the different viruses and bacteria that come in and also for developing new lab methodologies. 

What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
I received my Bachelor's degree from St. Bens in Biology and went on to graduate school at Boston University for biomedical forensic science with an emphasis on forensic DNA analysis. I received my Master's of Science degree this past spring. I loved my experience out on the east coast, but wanted to find a job closer to my family. I came home and started looking for DNA research positions when I found my current job.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Apply for internships! It is something I wish I would have put more effort into when I was in school. The job market is very competitive right now, and the majority of jobs I was interested in, wanted me to have at least 1-2 years of experience. The more pertinent experiences you can put on your resume, the better. In many cases, an internship leads to a full-time position after graduation. Not only could it lead to a potential job, but an internship is also a good way to build connections when you are looking for a job later on.

Also, get in touch with alums that work in the field you're interested in; don't be afraid or feel like you're a bother - we'd be more than happy to lend a fellow Johnnie/Bennie a hand.

What skills are important in your field?
My field is so interesting at the moment. With the new technology, we are on the verge of new discovery. Because the science is so rapidly evolving, I think it is important to stay up to date on the new methods and knowledge out there. You must be flexible and have a willingness to learn/adapt all the while working on building a firm foundation of molecular biology. It is important to be able to work both independently and as a team member. You can't be afraid to ask questions.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
I went to a job fair the spring semester of my senior year, even though I knew I was probably going to be going to graduate school. However, the experience was good for me. I hadn't really had prior interviews but felt that getting out there and networking and interviewing were good preparation for the future. 

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
On a personal level, one of the most interesting parts of my job is working through anomalies. The road to finding answers, however, can be very frustrating, which makes the discovery at the end all the more rewarding.