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Career Profiles:

Courtney Sailes

1. What is a brief description of your job?
video I'm a research associate here at Genentech working in the bio-organic chemistry division. And what I do is synthesize organic molecules to administer them as drugs for human diseases.

2. Where did you grow up?
video I was born in Oakland, California. I lived there for a few years and moved around the Bay Area here in California. I went to Vallejo High School and after that I attended the University of California at Berkeley. And now I live in Emeryville, California.

3. What training and degrees do you hold? What were the specific areas of study?
video I have a Bachelor's of Science in Chemistry from the College of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. The training that's necessary for my position is at least one year of organic chemistry course work and what is beneficial would be some lab experience in organic chemistry.

5. What is the minimum training that is required for your job?
video The minimum requirements for a research associate would be at least a year of organic laboratory experience. Also with that would be the requirement that you've taken a year of organic synthesis course work.

6. How many years of study are typically needed to acquire the training for your job?
video For research associates the minimum years required would be 4 years which would be your bachelor's degree with at least one year of organic synthesis.

7. What percentage of an average day is spent using your training?
video I believe 95% of an average day, I'm using my training and another 5% is probably more organizational time management, but the majority of my days are using my skills and training.
video The general skills that I use are time management to organize the reactions, organization, bookkeeping and scheduling meetings.

That's mostly organization administration, administrative, reading articles, organizing the reactions that I'm gonning to set up, getting supplies together, setting up my reactions or syntheses and recording data and logging them in or data processing.

8. What science education, if any, is useful in your field?
video Definitely a strong background in chemistry sciences would be beneficial and is required. Some knowledge of biology because we're making therapeutic drugs is beneficial and can be supplemented. Biochemistry is also beneficial and some anatomy, those type of things.

9. What general work skills do you use on a daily basis?
video The general work-skills as a research associate that I use are data processing, organization, time management and meetings, setting up meetings and coordinating with my boss on certain projects.

10. Are you working in isolation or with a team of co-workers or subordinates?
video I, many times, synthesize things on my own but they're within a group of other scientists that are also synthesizing different compounds. So individually I synthesize my own compounds but I work within a group working on an overall project to make certain chemical mimics of target compounds.

11. What are your working conditions? Dress codes? Environment (Indoor or Outdoor)?
video My working environment as a research associate is very laid back. Because we're working with chemicals, the dress code is very casual - jeans, t-shirt, boots. I work inside of a lab in a hood which is conditioned to suck off any hazardous vapors or toxic fumes. It's very laid back. We have music of any type and it's very casual.

12. What is the biggest challenge you face in your field?
video The biggest challenge as a research associate is to not get discouraged by compounds that may not work, but to stay optimistic and look at the overall picture and the overall goal and keep trying to find new compounds for your target.

13. What is the most rewarding experience in your field?
video The most rewarding experience in my field as a research associate would actually be able to develop a drug that is marketed for Genentech.

14. How did your interest in your field develop?
video My interest in chemistry developed slowly. I've always been interested in different aspects of things, always curious. Basically my curiosity is what got me involved in chemistry, answering different types of questions. I wasn't interested in it in high school but just was drawn to it in college...because UC Berkeley has such an exemplary College of Chemistry.

15. What did you want to be in high school?
video When I was in high school I wanted to be a doctor. I'm still trying to work towards that. There have been a few changes in the medical field that I haven't really appreciated. I'm waiting to see if I really want to still do that.

16. Was school easy or hard for you then, and did you like it?
video School was always pretty easy for me. I really didn't like my environment though. Being in a sort of small town, so there was not a lot of extra curricular activities or just things to get into. So as far as that nature, as far as just academics, I enjoyed it a lot, but extra curricularly I didn't, that's why. I wanted to go to a big school where I could get involved in a lot of things.

17. Are you doing now what you expected to do when you finished school?
video Actually as a research associate I am doing exactly what I wanted to do, surprisingly. It's really hard nowadays to find this type of position available after graduation in the field that you would like. There are many research associate positions but they're of different quality or different projects that you're required to work on. So, overall I am doing what I wanted to do after graduation.

18. What advice do you have for students interested in your field?
video Advice I would give to someone who would like to be a research associate is just study hard and understand, ask a lot of questions and try to be organized.

19. Beginning with high school, what science courses do you recommend to prepare for your field?
video To prepare for this field for high school students I would suggest biology, anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, chemistry and any other sciences that are available. Also, it's good to balance out those chemical or scientific classes with some arts that you might be interested in - music or something outside of science.

20. How is the future projection for jobs in this career? Do you forsee an increase in demand in the future?
video Research associate's position is pretty much ebb and flow depending on the market. Sometimes there's high demand. Sometimes there's low because you're developing new drugs and sometimes it's faster or slower. So there will be increases but there'll also be decreases, but overall it'll balance out. So there will always be research associate positions available.

21. Do you use the Internet on a daily basis? If so, how?
video As a research associate I do use the Internet on a daily basis to order compounds, research new compounds and also to keep in touch with my boss on the project development.

22. With regard to your profession, which web sites do you recommend for students interested in your field?
video For students interested in becoming a research associate in the field of chemistry it would be useful to access the College of Chemistry website at UC Berkeley or the College of Chemistry at any other university in the United States to research where organic chemistry is headed and what professors are doing what type of research.

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