Stephanie Martin, PSM in Biotechnology '17

Biotech for a Better Future

Having had no prior experience in the world of biotech, Stephanie Martin ‘17 decided to move from Texas to San Francisco to attend USF’s PSM in Biotechnology program. Only one year after completing the program she is now fully immersed in the biotech industry. Stephanie works as a producer on Professor Moira Gunn’s NPR radio program Tech Nation, but that is only her night job. She spends her days at Encoded Genomics, a startup in South San Francisco developing new medicines that aim to cure fatal diseases affecting people across the world.

At Encoded, Stephanie splits her time between the tech development and preclinical teams, generating, processing, and interpreting disease- and biologically-relevant data. On the technical level, this includes DNA construction, next-gen sequencing, tissue culture, ELISAs, and other biochemical and molecular biology assays. She sees her work as contributing to the goal of creating a better future where people can live longer and healthier lives, and is excited to be making a difference.

What attracted you to USF’s Biotech program?
USF offered me both support and access to the biotech industry that I could not find elsewhere. I knew the small class sizes would make it easier to build relationships with faculty and my peers, and the evening classes would give me the time outside class to build my network in the biotech industry. In short, I knew USF would provide the ideal location and support to help me get into biotech.

How did the program prepare you for your career?
Along with helping me to begin a professional network, it also gave me the foundational knowledge I needed to secure my job through courses and projects. Labs in the biotech program gave me the time and space to practice technical skills, which I now use everyday at work, such as Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction digest cloning. The program allowed me to design my own projects to apply those skills.

How did you end up at Encoded Genomics?
I originally met the Encoded team at an internship matching event that brought students from the program to the JLABS incubator space in South San Francisco to meet and interview with the startups there and mingle with the companies’ scientists and officers. I later secured my interview through another graduate from the PSM program and interned with Encoded at the JLABS incubator, after which they offered me a position and I transitioned to Research Associate.

The companies in the incubator work in close quarters and having interns and employees who were all from the same USF program helped build a community that bridged companies. Working in the same space as my classmates and PSM alumni, where I could talk about school or learn about the other cool science happening in our hallways was a highlight of my time as a JLABS intern.

What’s the experience like working on Tech Nation?
Tech Nation is an NPR program that features conversations with leaders in science and technology and reaches 200 public radio stations nationally and 177 countries globally. As a producer I help to facilitate interviews, manage social media, and keep the website updated with current show information throughout the year. I find this work fulfilling because I believe in NPR's mission: "to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and cultures" and I want to contribute to that mission in a way that is relevant to my industry. Like every industry, the biotech industry is full of passionate people with amazing stories. By working on Tech Nation, I get to meet those people and play a small role in telling those stories.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the program?
The week I spent in Puerto Rico for my Academic Global Immersion (AGI). There we got to meet with government officials whose responsibilities were focused on the life sciences sector, and toured a number of manufacturing plants, as well as a few research & development labs. I got to see first-hand how the biotech sausage gets made, and for the first time had a glimpse of the big picture — how a drug discovered is pushed through clinical trials and then onto the assembly line. And I thought it was beautiful. I was also exposed to the rich culture in Puerto Rico, given the chance to practice my Spanish, and developed meaningful relationships with my peers who travelled with me.