To accommodate scientists’ growing need for support with their projects’ technical aspects, Bio-Rad developed a wide array of resources that scientists can tap into at any moment. Depending on the nature and urgency of their needs, researchers can browse educational materials available on Bio-Rad forums on their own time, contact technical support, or request in-person support from a Field Application Scientist (FAS). In the next few sections, we will outline how well-trained Bio-Rad FASs help researchers save time and obtain high-quality results.
Title: Field Application Scientist and Regional Sales Specialist
Area of expertise: Protein biochemistry, imaging, multiplex assays, and chromatography Geographic area covered: South Europe and countries within EMEA (Europe, Middle-East, and Africa) where Bio-Rad products are offered by distributors
Education: PhD in pharmacology
Background: Postdoctoral fellow studying pre-synaptic proteins
Favorite aspect of being an FAS: "It can be challenging to convince an experienced scientist that there is a different, more convenient method for the approach they are used to, but it is so rewarding when they actually see it for themselves, and when you can see that realization in their eyes."
Addressing Every Research Question
“Sometimes, when you have real doubts about how to do some experiment, or how to use a technology, you need somebody with a higher and deeper knowledge of that field or instrument. This is the role of FASs, who are people with extensive lab experience,” said Italy-based Bio-Rad FAS Stefano Romorini.
To make sure that every scientist can obtain the support they need, Bio-Rad established a team of troubleshooting experts who can offer comprehensive in-person and remote support for scientists in academic, biopharma, or diagnostic research environments. The global Bio-Rad FAS team is currently 350 members strong, with highly trained specialists around the world, helping scientists overcome their research delays regardless of their location.
"We bring a personalized touch and all of our collective experience when we visit [scientists]. For example, we can explain what kind of workflows other labs who are doing something similar have in place, so they don’t have to go look it up in some 300-page manual. We help [researchers] shorten their learning curve for the instrument they just bought, so we save them a lot of time and effort," said U.S.-based FAS Brad VanderWielen.
Title: Field Application Scientist III
Area of expertise: Protein biochemistry
Geographic area covered: South and central USA
Education: PhD in molecular genetics
Background: Postdoctoral fellow studying crystallography and biophysics
Favorite aspect of being an FAS: "I’ve always had an affinity for teaching and helping people figure out their problems. As an FAS, I get to do this every day."
How Your Troubleshooting Scientist Becomes an Expert
When they join the Bio-Rad team, each FAS goes through a rigorous onboarding process to ensure they have the knowledgebase to solve complex scientific problems. This training process consists of multiple phases, during which the new FAS spends time reviewing Bio-Rad online learning center resources and attends trainings provided by in-house teams. After training, each new FAS shadows senior FAS members on laboratory visits to learn and gain confidence in how to best support researchers.
To make sure they support and promote cutting-edge research, Bio-Rad FASs also develop eLearning courses, training sessions, and journal club–like webinars to educate each other about newer technologies and applications. “Bio-Rad pushes its FAS team to constantly be on an educational path to find new and creative ways to push the envelope with the systems we [support]. We also have a ‘Voice of the Customer’ program, where we include feedback and [requests] from our customers to either incorporate into product updates or into white papers and application guides to [support scientists proactively],” said U.S.-based FAS Steve Kotsopoulos.
Title: Senior Field Application Scientist III and Diagnostics Systems Specialist
Area of expertise: Digital biology (Droplet Digital™ PCR)
Geographic area covered: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Education: BSc in microbiology and immunology
Background: Senior scientist at a biotech company that was at the forefront of digital PCR application development
Favorite aspect of being an FAS: “Dealing with a lot of different types of people has opened my eyes in terms of the diverse palette of personalities, needs, and expectations that different people have and has given me a more global view of humanity.”
Adjusting to Every Environment and Situation
Bio-Rad FASs adjust their support based on a scientist’s needs and research environment. “In academia, people would want to know everything a particular instrument or technology can do so that they can use it for different purposes. There is a more targeted approach in a clinical or biopharma setup, where they expect us to make this one thing the instrument can do as simple or as automated as possible,” said India-based FAS Ajay Baskaran.
Regardless of the research environment, an FAS will collect as much information as possible about the research group before their visit so that they can tailor their support to the group’s needs. They look at the types of instruments and reagents that are available as well as the group’s research questions, experimental workflows, and level of expertise. Based on this knowledge, the FAS decides which documentation to bring and what to include in their training program.
When they provide in-person training, Bio-Rad FASs follow a similar strategy to the one most scientists rely on: learn as you see. Working side-by-side with an expert to learn how to conduct experiments is a tried-and-true method for knowledge transfer in the lab. It is how novice scientists learn how to perform their first western blot, how well-seasoned researchers venture into new directions, and how FASs teach scientists about efficient experimental approaches. “There are cases in which the [researcher] is used to working with a similar technique or technology, so then it is quite easy to introduce new products. In other cases, you really need to start from scratch. For example, our Bio-Plex System is an alternative to ELISA immunoassays, but it’s done in a completely different way. So, we typically perform the first experiment together to show them how to do it,” said Romorini.
Ajay Deepak Baskaran
Title: Field Application Scientist II
Area of expertise: Genomics, all life science products
Geographic area covered: India
Education: Bachelor’s degree in biotechnology with a postgraduate degree in cellular and molecular diagnostics
Background: Scientist at a large biotech company where he developed and produced antibodies as part of the group’s molecular biology team
Favorite aspect of being an FAS: "Every day brings a new challenge and new issues to solve as technology continues to evolve, pushing us to stay on your toes and keep learning to provide efficient support."
Similarly, if a researcher runs into a problem with their instrument a few months — or even years — later, the FAS is available to help troubleshoot and share strategies for how to avoid similar issues in the future. “For some of the equipment, you really have to follow pieces of tubing from point A to point B, so it is very hands-on. I make the [scientist] do this themselves. It takes a bit longer, but they usually feel more comfortable in what they've been taught by the end of [it] because they did it themselves,” VanderWielen mentioned.
The recent global pandemic threw a wrench into normal FAS operational procedures and turned the profession into a hybrid one. “Seminars, webinars, or software training can easily be transitioned [into] a video conference, with the added advantage of being able to record those sessions and offer them for future reference in case the [group] onboards new technical personnel. But we still do a fair amount of on-site work in terms of hands-on training or troubleshooting,” said Kotsopoulos.
Taken together, Bio-Rad FAS teams strive to go above and beyond so that they can provide the highest level of support to research teams of any location, research field, and expertise level. Over time, they build trusting relationships that have no expiration date, all the while continuing together on the educational journey to scientific excellence.