There are over 50,000 users on the BenchSci platform, including bench scientists at 16 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies and researchers at academic organizations. On a platform with new features and data added regularly, it’s perfectly normal to want some support. Whether it’s how-to videos, Knowledge Center articles, or answers to specific questions, our Scientific Support team is here to help. But what exactly is the Scientific Support team? And how do they fit into our larger Customer Success team?
We asked Duncan MacKenzie, Claudia Hung, and Shannon Hall just that. Get to know a few of the faces behind our in-app chat in this video or read on to learn even more about how we support the scientists that use BenchSci.
What was your area of research for your Ph.D.?
Duncan: My area of research throughout my Ph.D. was physical biochemistry. So, we sort of looked at the how and the why of protein movement and behavior.
Claudia: During my Ph.D., my research focused on protein aggregation and other cellular mechanisms that contribute to neurodegeneration. In other words, how processes in brain cells would actually cause them to die and contribute to brain disorders. I specifically studied Huntington's disease.
Shannon: My area of research for my Ph.D. was in sleep neuroscience. I studied how long-term lack of sleep impacts the function of different cell types in the brain.
Why did you choose BenchSci?
Shannon: I spent over a decade in academia and what I wanted for my next position was to work closely in a team, build relationships, work creatively, and innovate. I also wanted to maintain a strong connection to bench work and advance the fields of science and medicine. BenchSci had everything I was looking for.
Claudia: The solutions that BenchSci provides scientists really resonate with me. It’s something that I wish I had during my studies. It would've been really helpful.
Duncan: By the end of my time in grad school, I was ready to explore how I could use my science experience to influence the world of research. I felt like I had a fairly unique view of where scientists are facing challenges and how things could be made easier. That aligned really closely with BenchSci’s mission to help empower scientists. The mission spoke to me. I almost felt like I didn't have a choice.
What’s the most common question scientists ask you?
Shannon: I'm answering questions from scientists all the time. One big thing we help with is when scientists are studying a rare target or looking for a very specific type of reagent. They'll reach out to Scientific Support to ask for help digging through our database and pulling out relevant data that is often very hard to find using other reagent resources. With our extensive database, we’re often able to help them out, even when they study something incredibly rare.
Duncan: The most common type of question we get is a little more in the weeds for scientists. We often hear things like, “Hey, I need help researching this rare target. Can you help me use the platform to do that?” It comes up a lot because everyone's research project is unique, and they wouldn't mind a hand getting to the bottom of it.
What is the biggest misconception about your job?
Claudia: There are a lot of ways that our team actually supports users. Most people probably assume our job is all about answering questions from users through our in-app chat or via email. We do offer support that way but we also proactively create a ton of content on our Knowledge Center to address a variety of questions that our users might ask.
Shannon: On the Scientific Support team, we're all Ph.D. scientists. We have really strong backgrounds and diverse expertise. Our job is to be specialists in the science of our platform. Within the Customer Success team, we're a mixture of scientists and non-scientists. We help support scientific knowledge on our team by explaining the complexities of our application in ways that are easy to understand. Essentially, we help non-scientists that we work with understand the scientists’ perspective.
What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on at BenchSci so far?
Claudia: I get to put myself in the shoes of our users to create guide content. I ask myself, “If I'm a user that has access to this, or if I'm studying this, how would I use BenchSci, and in what context?” So, I get to be creative, and I get to talk about science. We’re also continuously iterating and improving based on feedback from users. So if a user says “I would like content on this,” we can make that happen, which is really cool.
Duncan: It’s hard to pick just one. Being responsible for creating some of this help content means we get a sneak peek at some of the newest stuff that BenchSci is working on. Certainly, some of the latest enhancements to the platform have been really interesting—new is always exciting. So, if you ask me next week, I'll probably talk about what I worked on this week. Maybe that's one of the benefits of working in such a dynamic and fast-paced environment. There's always something to get excited about.
What are three words you would use to describe our culture?
Shannon: The three words I would use to describe BenchSci’s culture are flexible, innovative, and rewarding.
Claudia: What struck me right from the beginning was that everyone was really friendly, incredibly inclusive, and so cooperative. I feel like everyone is so on board with our mission and is just so willing to listen to other viewpoints. Everyone’s always thinking about how they can incorporate the opinions of their colleagues. I'm not just here trying to build something on my own; we work as a team.
What is your favorite science fact?
Duncan: My favorite science fact is part of the history of epidemiology, namely around the outbreaks of cholera and other communicable diseases in London when it was first discovered that some diseases could be transmitted through drinking water. There's an experiment done by John Snow (not from Game of Thrones), who suspected that the location of the local well might be contributing to disease. So he tried removing the handle from that water source for a few days, and local cases went down. And when the town council decided they needed the well working again, he said, “No, don't. Disease!” And low and behold, it cropped up again. That was a really big moment in our history for understanding how diseases are communicated, especially in urban settings.
Claudia: I worked with a lot of really cool microscopes—ones that could dive into things like the interior of a cell. Really, really small things. So I was always trying to think about the scale of things? How truly small is this protein I'm looking at? The microscopes I was using could look at something as small as ten nanometers in size, which is about a millionth of the size of a strand of hair. So, really small. I thought that was so cool.
Shannon: My favorite science fact is related to the types of cells that I studied during my Ph.D. work, called microglia. They are a type of glial cell in the brain, which are the cells that support your neurons—your main brain cells. They allow your brain to do all of the cool things that it can do. Like many cells, these microglia have a cell body, and then they have these long arm-like structures that stick out and survey the environment of the brain, on the lookout for anything they can help with. They can actually move these little “arms,” so to speak, at a speed of 1.5 micrometers per minute, which makes them the fastest-moving structures in your brain! For reference, one micrometer is one-ten-thousandth of a centimeter. That may not seem very far, but if you think about it with respect to your brain and the fact they can do that every minute, it adds up.
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