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Home > Blog > Employee Spotlight: Lab Manager LeAnn Bowers

Employee Spotlight: Lab Manager LeAnn Bowers

In January 2022, LeAnn joined InVivo as a Lab Technician. I recently interviewed LeAnn to discuss her experience as a tech and her transition into her current role of Lab Manager. This article will discuss LeAnn’s work as a scientist, how she remains organized, and what is key in balancing technical and managerial duties. 

Image 1. LeAnn Bowers, Project Manager at InVivo Biosystems.

LeAnn’s work deals primarily with custom services projects in the lab, which involves managing the technicians and her own work. As a part of InVivo’s custom services team she helps perform personalized experimental testing for clients. For instance, a project may be evaluating a client’s desired compound. This includes various tests including lifespan analysis that measures lifespan and healthspan of large numbers of C. elegans. To do this, the custom services team of “scientists put[s] together the customized experimental designs” and LeAnn “lead[s] the technical team in performing the bench work needed to execute the entire experiment.” The entire team’s effort is needed for the projects and LeAnn’s role is crucial in helping everyone complete their duties. 

 

LeAnn starts her day bright and early so she can spend time with her two year old, dog, and husband before beginning her work. Her son “loves digging up worms and bugs in the garden, pretending to be a scientist like [his] mom.” InVivo is dog friendly, so occasionally LeAnn’s dog joins her in the office being a scientist as well! LeAnn arrives at InVivo around 8 am and gathers resources for the custom services morning stand up meeting – this involves looking through spreadsheets of project data to determine the day’s workload. At 9am LeAnn attends the stand up, during which daily tasks are assigned, and lab space based on the timing of each member’s duties.

Image 2. LeAnn’s work buddy!

As for LeAnn, her workload is distributed between managerial and technician duties. Certain days are more lab intensive; such as conducting worm husbandry, media preparation, and standard assays for InVivo’s C. elegans lifespan analysis package, whereas other days are heavier in meetings and computer work. When she is at the lab bench, LeAnn begins with checking in on the C. elegans. She says it’s essential to “look at the worms and [see] what stages they’re at to evaluate at what point you can do certain assays” that day or week. Each assay differs based on the project requested by the client. For example, two different projects can require a toxicity assay, but they can vary based on the strain of nematode and compound being tested. As lab manager, she also takes time in the morning to ensure the lab technicians have the correct physical supplies and resources to complete their tasks. 

 

“Living organisms have their own schedules.”

 

When she’s not at the bench, LeAnn also completes managerial duties throughout the day. She coordinates with other scientists working on custom services projects and provides guidance and/ or training to the technicians. She also works on ensuring projects are ready for the next steps which involves meeting with upper management and working with different vendors to manage supplies. 

 

On top of these duties, LeAnn makes time for her own assays. To make sure this functions smoothly LeAnn “starts and ends her day with organizing” to give herself multiple checkpoints along the way. 

 

An important part of staying organized as lab manager is meeting with the techs she manages which span the phenotypic, transgenic, and molecular biology teams. LeAnn meets with her techs each morning to coordinate that specific day. She also has another team meeting once a week which goes more in depth into training opportunities, planning projects, and optimizing processes. Each project also has a kickoff meeting which is essential to arranging a schedule and deadlines. Finally, LeAnn also has frequent check-ins with scientists and one-on-ones with her lab techs. 

 

“Staying organized allows for flexibility to deal with challenges as they come up”

 

LeAnn emphasizes that interpersonal skills are imperative as they allow you to understand how individuals work as a team and what each individual needs to perform to the best of their ability — as a lab manager you not only manage members but the team as a whole. LeAnn also names staying organized as an essential part of her job, as such, she relies on several softwares to keep track of necessary information regarding project implementation and progress. For instance, she uses Google Calendar and Asana to give an overview of important dates and to assign tasks. She also uses Excel to organize project data such as percent completion and results. 

 

Each day is variable, depending on factors ranging from length of project to results of procedures. LeAnn often has to deal with the unpredictable, as “living organisms have their own schedules [and] sometimes there are other factors that can change that.” This can cause difficulties as sometimes the C. elegans are not ready for you to conduct experiments. However, LeAnn emphasizes that “staying organized allows for flexibility to deal with challenges as they come up.” This means keeping track of everyone’s schedule and spreading apart the technician’s time in the lab to deal with time interruptions outside of one’s control. 

An image of C.elegans from one of our dose finding experiments.

 

“I love that I get to be involved in progressing science.”

 

Since working at InVivo, LeAnn has worked with both C. elegans and zebrafish. Both model organisms provide unique pros. With Nematodes, LeAnn appreciates the consistency of work and ability to do research at such high volumes, which involves harvesting above 1 million worms at times. However, zebrafish are also exciting as it allows you to see similar data on a macro scale. 

 

Her favorite part of being a lab manager is seeing the impact of her work. LeAnn says “I love that I get to be involved in progressing science.” She gets to do this by seeing new data that comes out and helping others get the same experience. Working at InVivo has been very beneficial for LeAnn and she appreciates that everybody is extremely accessible. She mentions that “you can get guidance from the CEO, different scientists.. [as well as] marketing and sales.” This allows her to get a more comprehensive view of what the company does and appreciate the reach and influence of her work. 

 

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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