Cynthia Leclerc Turcotte graduated
with a biology major from Saint Michael�s College in 1993. She
completed her Ph.D. at Yale University and is currently Manager of
Sequencing Production at 454 Life Sciences, a Roche company, in
you interested in your current field, and what led you down the path
to where you are now?
academic science, your topic of graduate study isn�t necessarily
important when pursuing a career in industry. It is more important
to know how to plan and execute experiments and troubleshoot
problems. In graduate school, I always enjoyed learning new
techniques and that has served me well in industry as our work is
constantly evolving. After completing my graduate degree, I began
work as a scientist at CuraGen Corporation. My job was to help
develop a microarray screening test that would indicate whether a
test drug would be damaging to the recipient. After several years,
I moved to 454 Life Sciences a next-gen sequencing company. In my
current position, I lead a team of 12 scientists who perform DNA
sequencing for outside clients. Some of my responsibilities include
managing the client project through the different steps of the
sequencing process, assigning daily production activities in order
to meet project deadlines, troubleshooting problems when they occur
and interacting with other scientists in the company to help launch
new sequencing protocols to our clients. I really enjoy what I do as
it is a nice balance of science, business and project management.
experiences in the Saint Michael's College biology department
prepared you for your career?
Michael�s College provided me with a strong foundation for my career
as a research scientist. The small class size and supportive
faculty allowed me to really learn and understand the given topic.
The biology curriculum exposed me to different areas of science
(cell and molecular biology, anatomy and physiology and
environmental science) helping me determine my field of interest.
The curriculum also focused upon communication skills for biologists
by teaching students how to read scientific journals and present
data in public forums. These skills have helped me through graduate
school and in my present career. In my senior year at SMC, I opted
to do an independent research project. The faculty advisor allowed
me enough freedom to feel that the research was truly my own while
simultaneously providing me with guidance that I needed. This
experience was a great introduction to graduate school.
options or opportunities do you see in your field for SMC biology
certainly job opportunities for SMC graduates in the
biotech/pharmaceutical industry. My lab group is mainly composed of
recent college graduates. I don�t expect an entry level research
associate to walk on the job knowing everything but some basic lab
skills are helpful. It is important to be honest on your resume.
If a job candidate says he can do something, I expect that he can do
it. An entry level job in industry can certainly be a stepping
stone to graduate/professional school as I�ve seen several people in
my group move onto further studies after working for a few years.
specific opportunities you think biology majors should pursue before
research experience outside of the mandatory lab requirements is
always helpful whether you are applying for graduate school or a
job. You could accomplish this by finding a summer internship or by
completing an independent research project. Whichever route you
choose, be sure to really understand your research. In interviews
and essays, you need to be able to speak intelligently and
passionately about your outside research. Unfortunately, I�ve met
with some graduates who had done some really cool research but they
didn�t really understand what they had done.
what advice would you give current Saint Michael's College students
interested in graduate study and/or specifically interested in your
graduation, I would suggest working in a lab for a year or two. I
was lucky to find an academic lab environment that allowed me to
have my own research project while simultaneously working on the
larger group project. I was up front with my supervisor that I
wanted to go to graduate school and he was extremely supportive.
Working in an outside lab will not only give you additional research
experience but will give you a feel for daily lab work. Research is
often a rollercoaster ride and it is extremely helpful to experience
this before entering graduate school.