Joanne Kamens, Addgene

Meet our Newest Board Member: Joanne Kamens

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We are thrilled to announce the newest member of Seeding Labs’ Board of Directors: Joanne Kamens, PhD, executive director of Addgene.

Addgene is a nonprofit plasmid repository dedicated to helping scientists around the world share useful research reagents and data and has partnered with Seeding Labs to advance molecular biology research among our Instrumental Access scientists.

Before taking the helm at Addgene, Dr. Kamens’ career spanned research positions in both academic and pharma settings. A passionate mentor, she has been raising awareness of women scientists since 1998, when she realized that an entire week had gone by at work and not one other woman had been at any meeting she attended.

Spurred to action, Dr. Kamens re-established a Massachusetts chapter of the Association for Women in Science and helped it grow to over 300 members. She continues to support mentoring programs and speaks widely on career development and workplace diversity. Under Dr. Kamens’  leadership, the Boston Globe recently ranked Addgene the number one small employer in Massachusetts!

We are excited to welcome Dr. Kamens to the Seeding Labs board; now let’s get to know our newest board member a bit better:

What about Seeding Labs’ mission resonates with you?

I am inspired by the way Seeding Labs brings the resources for science to scientists in places that need them the most.  I can’t imagine the frustration at wanting to address an important scientific question but not having the resources to attack them experimentally.

Scientific questions are inherently influenced by local needs and we must empower scientists in developing countries to address their key local questions.

What do you hope to see Seeding Labs achieve in the future?

Nina and all the Seeding Labs staff are doing a great job garnering support for the mission and getting equipment donations, but we also need financial support to get the materials to the scientists and to support operations. The mission to jump-start science in developing countries is so crucial.

Ten years from now I expect to see the laboratories supported by Seeding Labs routinely celebrating projects that provided solutions to problems in their countries. I’d also like to see more international collaboration resulting from the maturing of robust research infrastructures in a greater number of countries around the world.

“Scientific questions are inherently influenced by local needs and we must empower scientists in developing countries to address their key local questions.”
As a mentor, what advice would you give to a young scientist?

The most important thing is start exploring opportunities outside of academia as early as possible and keep doing it all through your training. I always recommend watching my “Not Networking 101” webinar to learn about tactics for developing relationships that will support a long and interesting career.

Why do you think scientists are suited to be entrepreneurs? Do scientists-turned-entrepreneurs have any unique challenges?

Scientific training is a perfect proving ground for entrepreneurship. Graduate school and postdoctoral positions usually involve an enormous amount of independent work and initiative and require robust problem-solving skills. Scientists have to be tenacious because science rarely works the first time! Entrepreneurship, especially nonprofit entrepreneurship, requires incredible tenacity.

Despite these advantages, most academic settings don’t include sufficient exposure to careers outside academia. I believe that all graduate programs should have mandatory career exploration coursework and skill development programs in the first few years of the program. Of course, I’d love to see more exposure to the diverse opportunities in nonprofit work.

What are your favorite hobbies outside of the office?

I am involved in a lot of work promoting diversity in science and career success for science trainees. I read a lot of fiction and do many New York Times crossword puzzles. I have been playing Scrabble with my husband for almost 30 years. Recently, I must admit, I got hooked playing Pokemon Go when I saw other Addgenies playing. The technology fascinates me and it makes walking for exercise more fun!

For more insight from Dr. Joanne Kamens, follow her on Twitter @JKamens.

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