A day in the life of a Field Applications Scientist

Field Application Scientists (FASs) at SPT Labtech play a fundamental role in ensuring our customers get the most out of their instrument outputs and workflows. So, what does the role involve exactly?

Holly Hung is a Field Application Scientist at our SPT Labtech Boston, MA office. Here, she gives us a glimpse into what a typical day looks like for her.

8.30-9.30 I start my day by going through my inbox 

I begin by catching up on emails that have come in overnight. We are a global company which communicates across many time zones. We find that our time best overlaps in the morning hours on the east coast. Therefore, I try to fit meetings or email communication into the first part of the day to keep tasks moving forward. 

This morning, I take time to review new research publications that utilize SPT Labtech instruments. It’s great to see findings from users who have seen benefits from using our products and this is an excellent way to scan new methods to stay abreast of novel research. 

I also read my ‘Microbiome in the News’ newsletter from UC San Diego’s Center for microbiome innovation. This topic is a good fit for our miniaturization protocols and is a rapidly evolving field. It is essential that I keep up to date so I can give our customers recommendations on how to innovate. 

9.30-10.30 I meet with one of the Territory Managers and a prospective customer

Mid-morning, I meet with one of the Territory Managers and a prospective customer. The focus of this technical call is to understand more about the customers needs. I’m able to get a better idea of what they are trying to achieve scientifically and provide a tailored recommendation on how to use our products to achieve their scientific goals. 

I firstly establish what type of instrument demonstration would provide the most value for the prospective customer. In this case, the prospective customer wants to implement a library preparation for sequencing. The customer is currently running both Nextera Flex and NEBNext kits and have seen more sample preparation requests in the last year. They are most interested in viewing the magnetic bead cleanup feature of the Mosquito HV during tagmentation, so we decided to run Nextera Flex at one tenth the volume for the demonstration.

As part of the meeting we agree on the type of data we will generate during the demonstration which I book with the customer and finish by arranging the instrument shipping. 

I also take the time to follow up on another demo I recently completed to ensure the customer was satisfied with the instrument performance. I answer further questions and offer to do a virtual exploration of our software.

10.30-11.30 I check in on a customer 

I was due to fly to the Mid Atlantic and NorthEast regions as part of our new Genomics software launch but unfortunately this has been canceled due to COVID-19. We are humbled by many of our customers who have repurposed their instruments for coronavirus research, testing, and vaccine efforts. It has become clear from reagent shortages and the number of samples to process that miniaturization and automation is critical for ramping up testing efforts. 

Although we are not traveling at the moment, we are still doing everything we can to stay in touch with customers and to conduct demos. We are continuing to do technical calls with customers for future demonstration dates and face to face demos for liquid handling have been replaced by videos or members of the team have been conducting demos from home.

We’ve actually taken this time as an opportunity to conduct more training sessions. As many of our customers' lab staff are also working from home, this is a good time to do software training which might not have always been possible under normal circumstances. The extra training is very much appreciated to ensure everyone is up to speed on the instruments.

‘’Gaining an understanding of how our customers are getting value from our products is key. Not only does this ensure a good customer experience, it allows us to report feedback to the R&D team for improvements to be made’’.

During this time, I check in with one of my existing customers. I’m keen to understand how their experiments are progressing and the value they are receiving from the instrumentation and applications they are currently using. Not only is this critical to ensure a good customer experience, it allows me to report the comments to our research and development team so they can improve current products. It is also an effective way to contribute fresh innovation to create new scientific applications which emerge from customer needs. 

11.30-12.30 I have lunch

12.30-13.00 I check in with my Applications Team

I have a quick catch up with my Application Team to share information about the protocols we are working on as well as any issues that have come up at customer sites. We find that a few bottlenecks have emerged and collectively we discuss ways we can improve functionality and make the instrument easier to use.

Every experience we have in the field is valuable as we continue to learn about areas for improvement with the next software release. For example, we recently launched a cooling block and redesigned our magnetic separation bead block based on usability feedback. 

New challenges arise frequently so actively listening to customer pain points and staying flexible is a really important part of my job.

In this meeting we also discuss our experience on running demos with our customers on our new Genomics software release and the new design of our Mosquito HV Genomics instruments which now offers highly accurate and precise multichannel pipetting from 500 nL to 5 µL. 

We finish by discussing new kits/types of protocols that we tried in a demo. We are very open to trying to generate data from miniaturizing most types of experiments performed by our customers. We also discuss what level of miniaturization is the sweet spot for each kit we demonstrate. 

13.00-13.15 I receive a call from a service engineer

I receive a call from a service engineer. They need assistance with making a run more efficient with reagents. I offer some best practices for the protocol before running to my next meeting.

13.30-15.00 I hold an internal training workshop

A colleague and I run a training session for all the US Field Service Engineers (FSEs) on the use of the new Genomics software which has just been released. It’s really important for all the engineers to provide the best possible support to our customers so we ensure we have regular training sessions to achieve this. 

15.00-16.00  I hold a remote software training session for a customer

This afternoon, I run a software training session with one customer over skype. The goal of the session is to give the customer confidence that they can navigate their way through the different features and experiment types offered in the software. I show them our template feature that allows them to load an entire experiment which they can start running right away. I also demonstrate how to build a new experiment so each step of the protocol can be customized. 

16.30-17.30 I work on some tasks for marketing

I have been working with the marketing department on a potential webinar idea with one of our customers on their use of our mosquito instrument in microbiome shotgun sequencing. We run back and forth with our ideas and feel like it’s coming together nicely! 

Throughout the day, I collaborate and communicate 

The ability to effectively collaborate and communicate is key in my job role because it involves interaction with so many people—customers, partners and internal teams rely on support from me and I value the opportunity to be able to advise the scientific community on ways to become more efficient and innovative.