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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / January 2017 / One Company, Lots of Freedom

One Company, Lots of Freedom

Career Story by John Nelson, PhD, Senior Principal Scientist at GE Global Research


John Nelson PhotoI’ve heard from a lot graduate students that their impression of industrial research for scientists with an advanced degree is that it is controlling, stifling, and tedious. You are told what to work on. Well, I can tell you that for me, that cannot be further from the truth.

Since leaving the University of Rochester in 1997 I have worked for one company (albeit different names) developing what I call “stupid enzyme tricks”. While it has been the same company, the name has slowly evolved through mergers and acquisitions over those 20 years. I started in Cleveland at Amersham, which turned into Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, then after 2 years, I shifted to New Jersey with Amersham Biosciences. A portion of Amersham Biosciences morphed into GE Healthcare, and after 5 years, I moved from the New Jersey business unit to GE Global Research outside of Albany. The Albany location is one of the largest industrial research groups in the world, and the most diverse. This is where I’ve worked for the past 13 years. I am currently in a “technical career path”, in the Biosciences group, where I work on multiple projects as a scientific advisor, and am Principal Investigator on a grant to develop DNA vaccine technology.

Along the way I’ve worked on too many projects to count, published a few papers, been granted over 30 patents, been PI on 5 grants, and most importantly, seen my work transition into the hands of researchers all over the world. By some estimates they say the kits I helped to develop, the DYEnamic ET terminator fluorescent dideoxy Sanger cycle-sequencing kits, were used to sequence about 10% of the original human genome. Hundreds of laboratories have used the TempliPhi plasmid DNA amplification kits, and the GenomiPhi whole genome amplification kits. During this time, I’ve had the pleasure of working collaboratively with scientists from all sorts of backgrounds, both within and external to GE. While the projects I work on must always have a commercial strategy, I have never felt controlled or stifled, and it certainly hasn’t been tedious! I tell people I feel like a kid in a candy store.

Join me January 30, 2017 (11 am) in the Medical Center’s Anderson Room (G-8534) and I’ll tell more about my time as a scientist in industry.

Tracey Baas | 1/10/2017

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