In this blog post, we’re joined by Ana Ramos, who enjoyed success as both an R&D Scientist and a Cross-functional Team Lead at BenchSci before moving to her current role as a Product Analyst. She tells us a bit about that journey and shares some of her unique perspectives as an LGBTQ2S+ scientist.
What was your area of research for your Ph.D.?
My area of research was microalgal biotechnology. This essentially means I was using different metabolic engineering approaches to teach algae to digest different types of waste (wastewater, waste gases, etc.) and process them into fats that can be used to make biodiesel. It’s a great example of a circular economy in action.
Why did you choose BenchSci?
So many different reasons! I think the thing that drove me the most to work here was the wide range of amazing knowledge, experience, and technologies we’re bringing together. We have extraordinary AI specialists working together with extraordinary scientists in this beautiful niche area where we combine the best of both worlds to create something even greater than the sum of its parts.
Since joining BenchSci, you’ve been an R&D scientist, cross-functional team lead, and now a product analyst. How have you found the experience of changing career paths here?
I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to move between different roles in different parts of the company. I joined as an R&D scientist, which really exposed me to the guts of our technology. I grew a lot in that role and developed technical abilities which I had not been able to explore at the lab. It ended up showing me that I'm actually really interested in the analytical side of things. Conveniently, just as I was making this realization, a position opened up with a different team here at BenchSci. Both my new and previous managers were very supportive and helped ensure I had all the tools I needed to make the transition as smoothly and quickly as possible. I’m so happy and excited—it’s a whole new adventure!
What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on at BenchSci so far?
That's a very difficult question—there's never a dull moment! Everything that I’ve worked on has been incredibly engaging. One project that’s really close to my heart focused on PCR. Since the beginning of my lab career, I’ve had a strong love-hate relationship with PCR. I worked a lot with PCR as an undergrad, and it was my biggest headache during my Ph.D. studies. Now here I am, working with PCR once again, but this time it’s from the perspective of empowering scientists with more comprehensive and accurate data so they’re spared some of the frustration I experienced, which I find really rewarding. I was fortunate enough to join the project right at the start and see it through to the first PCR release on BenchSci’s platform. I’d say that’s been my favorite so far, but every experience I’ve had here has been amazing!
You’ve volunteered with Let’s Talk Science and Antibuddies to talk to youth about careers in science. What is one piece of advice you wish someone had told you before you pursued a science career?
One piece of advice I wish I’d gotten when I first joined the industry is that careers hardly ever follow a straightforward path, and there's more than one type of scientist in the world. You can be a scientist without being in the lab. It's not just about what you can do with a pipette in your hand—your actual scientific knowledge is much more important. I enjoyed working at the bench and I do miss it sometimes, but I've really grown to love my career as a scientist outside of that. Communication is something that I don’t think we dedicate enough time to as scientists. It's something that I'm trying to do more of by volunteering.
At BenchSci we often talk about bringing your whole self to work, what has this meant to you?
To me, it's just being genuine. I don’t feel like I have to second guess my every move or ask myself if something is going to sit well or if it might have repercussions or affect my opportunities at the company. We want to celebrate people for exactly who they are. It gives you a lot of freedom and a lot of options to express yourself, both professionally and personally. I've developed really great friendships in the company because of that freedom—I don't feel like I need to hide a part of myself. That means we get to know each other, not just from a professional standpoint, but as a person, as a whole. It’s so much more fun to work with people you can be yourself around.
What is one thing you would want colleagues to keep in mind about being an LGBTQ2S+ scientist?
I can’t think of anything specific to being a scientist, it’s more about being an LGBTQ2S+ person as a whole. Many of us carry a lot of baggage because we’ve experienced the world in a different way. I think it's important to always take a step back and understand when we are framing questions or feedback in ways that could be interpreted as more negative or aggressive to someone who’s had different experiences in life. We have to pay attention to language and make sure that we are being intentionally inclusive at work because our ignorance can sometimes cause us to be exclusive without realizing it. Often, it's not that we want to exclude anyone, it's just that we don’t know what we don’t know. Intentional inclusion is the best way forward.
Spanish is your first language. What’s your favorite expression to say in Spanish?
Well, I admit that I can think of several which I will not repeat for you here because they aren’t exactly safe for work! One that I will share with you, which I actually do live by, is “no trates de tapar el sol con un solo dedo,” which translates to: “don’t try to cover the sun with a single finger.” This saying reminds us that you can choose to hide aspects of reality from yourself, the same way you can use a finger to block the sun from your view, but you haven’t actually changed anything about the situation—the sun continues to shine. Instead, we should address the root of a problem and not just the superficial symptoms. I try to always follow that way of thinking in my day-to-day life.
Who is your favorite player on the Toronto Raptors?
I have two favorite Raptors players. First is Fred VanVleet—he's always hustling and leading by example. Even if he's not on the court, he's always there cheering for his team, providing support, and giving advice. That, to me, is the definition of a great leader. My other favorite would be Chris Boucher. Not only is he Canadian, but you can really see his progression. He pushes his body and himself to the max to give his team all he has. He may make mistakes, but he always learns from them so the next time he encounters that situation he can take a different approach. I really admire that about him. Plus, both VanVleet and Boucher are just so much fun to watch!