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Employee Spotlight: Technical Applications Scientist Ben Jussila


Ben joined InVivo Biosystems in June of 2018 as a Research & Development scientist after coming from the University of Utah. Recently, I interviewed Ben and learned about his work at InVivo and his transition from the bench to a more client facing role. This article will discuss Ben’s work, how he utilizes his scientific background to his advantage, and how he stays on top of his busy schedule. 

Image 1. Ben & his partner Kathryn on a ride in Disneyland

Image 2.  Ben & his partner Kathryn on the Oregon coast

When Ben first started at InVivo he worked in the R&D department doing grant focused work and internal assay development related to zebrafish genome editing. He has helped develop standardized protocols for zebrafish genome editing workflows in an industry setting . In addition to his role at the bench, Ben took on client communications for giving updates for zebrafish projects and later joined sales calls as a technical consultant. 


“You get to come up with a custom solution for the [clients].”


His extensive bench experience was advantageous in this role as it allowed him to better understand client needs and the custom services they were selling. He used this knowledge to “figure out what the [client] needs as opposed to what they are asking for.” Working as a technical applications scientist is rewarding as Ben enjoys working with people to find the best solution for them. In his current role, Ben speaks with clients to figure out their capabilities and desired outcomes. This method is “non-standard and you get to come up with a custom solution for the [clients].” Rather than traditionally beginning his current role, Ben gradually transitioned into it from the bench.


Communication with clients is an integral part of Ben’s role. He meets with clients a few times a week if not daily throughout the sales process as it requires regular updates. Once the sale is finalized, the operations team takes a larger role in keeping the client informed. This role fits Ben’s niche well as his lab experience allows him to “speak in depth to the challenges and limitations” of the clients’ requested project. His past experience also makes him a good liaison between the bench and clients as he can determine the feasibility of projects before passing them on to the operations team. 

Image 3. InVivo Biosystems’ booth. 

When selecting which projects to move forward, it’s imperative for Ben to clearly communicate and set the expectations for both sides as he must keep the scientist and client interest in mind. Certain requests are more difficult than others as they lack an established workflow, but Ben strives to fulfill the interests of each client. For instance, once a genome editing project was unable to be done with Cas9, however Ben pitched the idea of trying Cas12 and the results were successful, benefiting not only the client but also InVivo by providing valuable experience with a new CRISPR tool. 


“Present information in a way that is collaborative and oriented towards problem solving.”


There are several steps that occur prior to beginning a project and they comprise the sales cycle. The cycle begins with fielding inquiries in which Ben reviews basic information such as the client’s institute, their genes and services of interest, and other specifics. Next, Ben schedules a call with the client if it is necessary, otherwise the details can be handled via email. During the call, Ben gathers information about the client and the work they would like to do. Following that, he will complete feasibility checks and confirm the project with the operations team. Ben then relays the information discussed to the client. Prior to starting lab work, there will be more calls with the client to get all of the details in line. 


Keeping in contact with clients is a major part of Ben’s daily tasks; however, he also completes a myriad of other duties. These include preparing and giving notes on feasibility checks to the operations team, reading scientific literature, and finding new methods to reach solutions. He also completes work for other departments by doing things such as writing marketing content or spotlighting research done by InVivo’s clients.

Image 4. Ben on his way to a zebrafish conference.  

The most important skill to perform Ben’s job is being personable. It’s uncommon for every detail to go as planned; therefore, it’s important to be able to “reach out [to clients] and deal with [any situation] with a lens of empathy and present information in a way that is collaborative and oriented towards problem solving.” This ensures that both the client and technical team are on the same page. Ben also cites knowing how to prioritize as an important skill since not every project has the same ROI, so you must decide what is the best fit. Once the projects are decided upon, it’s also necessary to keep track of overlapping timelines and different clients. 


Staying on top of different schedules is made easier by using organizational tools such as Hubspot and Asana. Hubspot helps track various metrics in the client pipeline and Asana facilitates teamwork by making it simpler to assign tasks. Both tools allow you to visually see where you are in a project. Ben also uses online bioinformatic tools as they enable quick searches for various compounds. 


“[InVivo is a] collaborative and supportive environment.” 


When Ben takes on new projects, he does a literature review of the subject area. He cites this as his favorite part of his job as he is a self-proclaimed “literature junkie” and loves to “find resources that will help the client do their work.” This helps build InVivo’s relationships with their clients. Moreover, Ben’s favorite part about working at InVivo is his ability to form tight-kit relationships and being part of such a “collaborative and supportive environment.”  


About The Author

Astha Nimavat

Astha is a marketing intern for InVivo Biosystems. She is going to start her second year at the University of California Berkeley where is she majoring in Molecular Cell Biology and Business Administration. In her time at school she has worked in research with DNA nanotechnology, participating in student run consulting, and made short films. Astha’s hobbies include tennis, film-making, and hiking.

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