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Cindy Waldron, Staff Scientist, Field Applications

Applied Biosystems capillary electrophoresis and Ion Torrent next-generation sequencing

After graduating from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor's degree in biology and a minor in music, Cindy Waldron began her science career working at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. There, she performed research and clinical assays on Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). After a few years, Cindy transferred to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at Johns Hopkins University, where she worked with antibodies and proteins. At the HHMI, Cindy ran Applied Biosystems™ instrumentation such as the Applied Biosystems™ 380A/380B DNA synthesizers, Applied Biosystems™ 430 peptide synthesizer, Applied Biosystems™ 477 protein sequencer, and Applied Biosystems™ 420 amino acid analyzer. Applied Biosystems (now part of Thermo Fisher Scientific) then hired Cindy for a position as a field service engineer (FSE). After 13 years servicing our customers in the MD, DC, VA, and PA areas, working on an array of instrumentation, Cindy moved into the field applications scientist (FAS) position in the Mid-Atlantic States, covering capillary electrophoresis (CE) platforms, Applied Biosystems™ SOLiD™, Applied Biosystems™ 5500, and Ion Torrent™ next generation sequencing. Cindy now resides in Dallas, TX and covers CE and Ion Torrent instruments throughout TX, OK, AR, and LA. In August 2017, Cindy will celebrate 25 years with the company.

We interviewed Cindy to learn more about her career path, personal insights, and advice for customers working with CE. Here's what she shared with us.

Q: If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
CW: Since I was a teenager, I've wanted to be a commercial airline pilot, an air traffic controller, or a scientist.

Q: What drove you to choose your career in science?
AM: I love the outdoors. When I was a kid, my parents bought me a microscope that I used to collect things like water samples, soil samples, and blades of grass, and look at them under the microscope. I thought it was so cool to see microscopic organisms moving around under the lens. I was fascinated by the intricacies of the cells and other small particles-that these cells made up a microscopic organism that could not be seen with the naked eye.

Q: Which person has inspired you the most in your science career?
AM: I would say my mom because she inspired me the most in life. She loved life, loved people, always had a smile, and was always willing to help someone. She taught elementary school. One year for Christmas, a student gave her a small plaque that she hung over her bedroom door which read, "If you see someone without a smile give them one of yours." I remember that plaque and phrase like it was yesterday, and that is how I remember my mom to this day.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
AM: I must say, it's the people I work with on a daily basis. Through the years, I've been blessed to meet some incredible people and make some lasting friendships. Many of those folks have moved on to other jobs, but we still keep in touch and get together for lunch or whenever we can catch up. I have met so many genuine and talented folks through the years.

Q: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement as a FAS?
AM: I would say being able to relate, collaborate, and build lasting relationships with my customers and colleagues alike. I love the job that I do and love meeting new people. Many customers I've met through the years I also call friends. The scientific world is very small. Since I have been in TX, I have worked with past customers from MD who are now in TX. When we see each other in the halls, or in a lab, it's like a reunion with smiles, hugs, and family pictures. I love all of the friendships and contacts that I have made through the years.

Q: What recent scientific breakthroughs are you excited about and why?
AM: Pharmacogenomics/pharmacogenetics. Personalized medicine is a huge breakthrough in how we will treat diseases, pain management, and patient conditions-and it's essential for preventing future issues that may be associated with treatments.

Q: What are your top 3 tips for achieving the best CE results?
AM: Quantitate, quantitate, quantitate! Choose a good cycle sequencing clean-up method that gets rid of artifacts. Many customers send me data to troubleshoot other issues, and I see a lot of dye blobs that interfere with base calling. The presence of dye blobs in your data demonstrates the ineffectiveness of your clean-up method. When you're seeing issues, run the controls. Use the pGEM included in your BD kit to troubleshoot template and PCR issues. Use the BD sequencing standard to troubleshoot possible cycle sequencing, instrument, and/or consumable issues.

Q: What advice do you have for customers working with CE for DNA analysis, fragment analysis, and difficult samples?
AM: Use primer design software to help design your primers. Educate yourself on what a good quality sequence looks like. Call or email your FAS or technical support team for help with difficult templates. They typically have ideas that are better suited to your needs than what you may read on the internet. Your FAS knows a wealth of information-so utilize their expertise!

Q: What is your favorite song and why?
AM: "Unfinished" by Mandisa. It's a great song which speaks to my life and heart.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
AM: I love gardening, butterflies, hummingbirds, and pretty much any animal. Even snakes! Well, maybe I don't really love snakes, but it falls in the animal category. Since TX has a lot of snakes, I have been educating myself on snake ID. My husband found a snake in our garden about a month ago. That led me to study snakes, learn to identify them and their characteristics, and most importantly, learn which ones are venomous and which are harmless. That way we don't kill a harmless snake and, hopefully, steer clear of the harmful ones.

Q: What is something you still dream of doing? What's on your bucket list?
AM: I would love to get my pilot's license and learn to fly a plane.

Q: Do you have any parting words of wisdom you'd like to share?
AM: Your work matters! Whether you're working at a bench in clinical research or a core lab, or crunching numbers in an office of a lab, your work is making a huge difference every day for cancer treatments, disease prevention, research, and personalized medicine. You're changing the future of medicine and the lives of many people-giving them hope and strength. Thank you for your dedication to science!

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