Lab Matters Fall 2018 - Page 10

FEATURE laboratorians in Miami—hospitals, universities and life science research facilities with laboratories.” At the same time, while automation has eliminated some less-skilled laboratory jobs, the growing sophistication of public health laboratory analyses has generated demand for scientists with highly specialized training. For example, the advent of high-throughput, next generation sequencing created a need for laboratory bioinformaticians—a technical niche that did not previously exist. Gillis points out that even trained professionals require ten months or more to learn the specifics of public health laboratory practice, which requires both rigor and adaptability. BPHL-Miami, for example, was one of the first in the nation to provide Ebola testing in 2014 and tested over 5,000 specimens for Zika virus in the second half of 2016. “It was always a challenge to make sure there was adequate staff to respond to new and emerging infections,” said Gillis. “I’m very ambitious and I want to work up” T o understand how to recruit the next generation of public health laboratory scientists, one must first know what they want. Workforce analysts at Deloitte, Monster and other firms, characterize the younger demographic—those from their 20s to early 40s—as energetic, self-confident and eager to embrace new technologies. They perceive change as an opportunity and are quick to adapt. They’re tech savvy, accustomed to multi-tasking, and comfortable questioning authority. Importantly, researchers say, younger workers do not consider their job their life—they want flexible schedules, pay for overtime and the opportunity to use leave promptly, rather than save it up. Millennials and Gen Xers prefer to be active and engaged at work, but are loyal to their career, not their job. They expect to advance rapidly and are willing to change jobs to do so. Training is a high priority. 8 LAB MATTERS Fall 2018 Scott Giatpaiboon, a scientist at the California Environmental Protection Agency (CA EPA), is the youngest full time professional in the Department of Toxic Substances Control, Environmental Chemistry Laboratory. After a brief stint at a pharmaceutical company, he was drawn to CA EPA because “government jobs are really stable.” Moreover, he said, “We get a lot of funding from our department to buy the latest technology; that was one of the pushes.” Although state government salaries don’t match the private sector, Giatpaiboon said, “Pay is a factor, but not the biggest; I would rather have a job that pays less, but you’re happy, than a job that pays more, but you’re unhappy.” On a scale of one-to-ten, Giatpaiboon rates his job a nine: “I wouldn’t say any job is perfect, but I’m pretty happy with my position right now.” He said, “In my first three years, I want to gain as much knowledge as possible and become competent in all our test methods.” In five years, he aspires to a supervisory role. Giatpaiboon cites a few drawbacks to his current post. Most importantly is “the fear of not being guaranteed a promotion, even if you’re working hard.” He said, “I’m very ambitious and I want to work up.” Other nits include dealing with the state bureaucracy and, as a newbie, being tasked with records management and other administrative chores (although Giatpaiboon saw this as an early “test” of his abilities and is pleased to have gotten more significant responsibilities over time). Overall, he says, “My supervisor is very great in helping me learn and [my colleagues] are always willing to take the time to help me learn, and that’s what I love most about my job.” Another young professional is Stephanie Trammell, MPH, a Microbiologist II at the San Francisco Public Health Laboratory. Trammell was certified as a California public health microbiologist in 2008 and worked part time at the Contra Costa Public Health Laboratory while pursuing her master’s degree. She said, “I didn’t want to lose any opportunities to work in a lab; that’s where I enjoy being.” California EPA DTSC Environmental Chemistry Laboratory Scientist Scott Giatpaiboon utilizes advanced technology to analyze hazardous waste samples at the new state of the art facility in Pasadena. Photo: DTSC After a field practicum in India spent evaluating a rapid test for Trichomonas vaginalis, she returned to the Contra Costa laboratory, but had to be retained as a contractor because of a hiring freeze. The combination of low pay, a high cost of living and, most importantly, being at a “standstill” in her career prompted her to leave. “I’m the type of person who’s pretty ambitious,” she said. “I want to see where I can best help.” In three years, Trammell expects to be in the same job she is in today, which, she said, “is fine with me, because I have plenty to learn still at this level.” In five PublicHealthLabs @APHL APHL.org