Anne Preut is a graduate of University of Arkansas’ Biomedical Engineering Department. Below, she describes her experience as a Product Development Scientist at Now Diagnostics and seeking employment post-graduation.
In November 2018, I started at Now Diagnostics (Springdale, AR) working as a Product Development Scientist. After graduation in May and a celebratory road-trip through the Southwest, I began the job hunt. Specifically, I was looking for a position that would challenge me, provide mentorship and positively impact healthcare through low-cost solutions and increased access for people. Now Diagnostics seemed to fit the description when a fellow graduate student at the University of Arkansas described the company to me. I reached out to see if and what positions were available. Cold-calling can be intimidating, but I would like to take a moment to encourage students to email or call the companies that they are truly passionate about. It only takes a moment and what’s the worst that can happen? The persistence paid off as I landed a phone interview with Vicki Thompson, who is my current boss. She then invited me to meet her Product Development Team as well as meet with the rest of the management team and CEO. After the interview, I knew this was a company where I could develop professionally and build a career (and thankfully they hired me!). Skills such as image analysis and 3D printing that I gained through the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Arkansas have been instrumental to growing in this new position. Most importantly, I have continued to grow as an independent researcher and build on my previous experiences as a graduate research student.
Image analysis was instrumental in my thesis work as well as one of the most challenging and rewarding classes I took during graduate school. Understanding the basic principles of image analysis has been helpful as I work to scale-up the production of our hCG test. The equipment that I use includes a vision system to ensure that coating each membrane occurs in the programmed location. Additionally, understanding these principles has enabled me to effectively communicate with the manufacturer of the equipment.
Another core component to my thesis work was 3D printing in order to develop a neurovascular model. Using this knowledge, I initiated a unique solution to an issue on our scale-up equipment. We run multiple sizes of membrane on the equipment, which requires readjusting the dispense reels that hold the membrane rolls. Through the NWA Fab Lab in Fayetteville, AR I 3D printed components that appropriately space each membrane to be perfectly centered, which ensures coating in the desired locations. Although a simple solution, this minimizes setup time and ensures proper alignment of the membrane for every use.
As an undergraduate, I worked in three labs, yet graduate school gave me the opportunity to work independently driving my own research ideas through the guidance of my advisors, initiated through classes and collaboration with fellow graduate students. This has been the most instrumental in preparing me for my current position. Every day requires new iterations to my research as I work to scale-up our hCG test and prepare for the tech transfer for our Strep test.
This is the challenging environment that I envisioned when I began my job hunt, but even more so I am thankful for the supportive, encouraging and friendly atmosphere that Now Diagnostics embodies. In February, a coworker initiated a fitness challenge for everyone to walk one-mile per day. This resulted in almost half of the company completing the challenge as well as three coworkers and myself completing the Hogeye Marathon Relay. I know that the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program has been foundational to building my skill set and I look forward building these friendships as well as my career at Now Diagnostics.