Q&A: The Value of a Field Applications Scientist

We spent time with Dr. Kamila Koprowska, European Field Applications Scientist, supporting customers using SPT Labtech’s liquid handling instruments. Here, she highlights the value that customers receive from having a Field Applications Scientist as an extension of their team. 

What responsibilities do you have in your role?

Our team of Field Applications Scientists is focused on the customer’s scientific projects from the very first interaction during the purchasing process. It is vital for us to understand the customer’s goals and challenges. Instrument and software demonstration is an important aspect of the FAS role as it gives scientists the opportunity to visualize how our technology fits with their workflows. The FAS team also assists with instrument installation, provides customized applications training and helps with experiment design and protocol optimization. We are also engaged in the ongoing scientific and technical support. Finally, I work with our Research and Development team on existing and new liquid handling products.

What’s your role in the sales process?

The role we play in the sales process is particularly important for scientists to get the most out of their instruments. We effectively bridge the gap between sales and science to ensure the science is present from start to finish. The early stages of interaction are key in understanding the needs of our customers and it’s at this time that we are most effective in being able to build something that will work for each customer. 

In the first instance, we work together with our customers to plan demonstrations ahead of time. We know the demonstration is a great opportunity for the entire lab team (the end users) to get the chance to use the equipment and applications in their own environment. Therefore, we believe it’s really important that the demonstration is tailored for their purposes. It’s also a great opportunity to get feedback from each lab team before a purchasing decision is made. 

How do you work with engineers?

We work with engineers in a cohesive partnership. The engineer will be responsible for installing the instrument, while FASs are responsible for ensuring the protocols for applications are fit for purpose. All FASs have a scientific background, specializing in individual fields such as molecular biology, assay development or structural biology. Having those specialized areas means we can dedicate expert advice to the customer when they need it. The best part of having both an engineer and a FAS on board is that we look at situations differently to achieve the best collective outcome. 

How do you bring value to customers?

The FAS team have supported hundreds of scientists with different research goals. Their breadth of knowledge and experience means they are well equipped to provide application support. They understand the common challenges scientists face, from irreplaceable samples, expensive reagents, lack of time and the resources required to scale processes and increase throughput. FASs help customers overcome these challenges by sharing best practices to speed up new method implementation, reduce time required for new assay implementation and make the transition from full volume to miniaturized reaction sets up simple.   

‘’FASs help customers overcome challenges by sharing best practices to speed up new method implementation, reduce time required for new assay implementation and make the transition from full volume to miniaturized reaction sets up simple’’

How do you structure product demonstrations with customers so they get the most out of their first experience with SPT Labtech’s instrument?

Our demonstration is a 3-stage process: 

  1. We firstly have a pre-demo call to specify the customer’s needs and challenges they have, protocols to be tested, sample type, reagents, other instruments and labware choice. 
  2. We then do an instrument demo, usually at the customer’s site but it can also be done at our site. Both the Territory Manager and FAS will be present to answer any questions the customer may have. This is often the first time the customer sees the instruments and software so it is important to provide an overview of how it works, its features and limitations. To achieve this, our team will run a spotting experiment with color dyes for visualization. For NGS researchers it’s also critical to test their samples at reduced volumes of their reagents.
  3. Lastly, we do a post-demo discussion of results. It’s a perfect moment to get initial feedback on the fit of our instrument(s) in the customer’s current laboratory setup. Liquid handling instrument demonstrations sometimes involve testing kits not previously miniaturized. Based on the obtained result we are able to provide guidance on protocol adjustments to further improve the yield and quality of results. 

What do you enjoy about your role?

I really enjoy the variety in my FAS role— no two days are the same. I love all aspects of my job— being involved in science, observing how our technologies help researchers to advance their project, implementing new miniaturized NGS methods and solving scientific and technical problems. I also get to travel and visit new places which I love doing. I have definitely learned more in this role than as a student or postdoc and I don’t have to worry about the grant application deadline! 

What does customer interaction mean for you?

I think the most important part of interacting with customers is the ability to build strong,  working relationships where transparency and open communication are the number one factor. This enables us to have an effective feedback loop in place so firstly, we can ensure our customers have a good experience when they work with us. Secondly, we can gather evaluations of the instruments and applications so we can work with the research and development team to improve our products. 

Can you give an example of how you work in collaboration with the research and development team?

We obtain valuable, firsthand feedback from customers which informs the research and development team about common trends and bottlenecks. The R&D team can then focus their efforts on improving functionality and ease of use. 

One of the recent improvements for our mosquito HV genomics liquid handler is the new wizard-based GUI. The software now allows you to create a script to be run on the instrument with just a few clicks. The user chooses experiment type, miniaturization level and number of samples. Based on these variables the mosquito software computes the order of reagent addition and dispense volumes. This new feature would not have been possible without collaborative work between the FAS team and the R&D team. 

What do you think sets SPT Labtech products and services apart from others?

SPT Labtech instruments are designed in response to user needs and they are constantly improved. We work closely with our customers and our product development teams to add new features to simplify the life of scientists. We are in constant communication with the scientific community, we observe changes, look for bottlenecks and find solutions for how we can eradicate them. We are a team with deep knowledge and a problem solving state of mind that share one goal: to work together to accelerate life science research.

How will a FAS help customers increase efficiency?

The unique feature of liquid handling instruments is true positive dispensing technology that allows users to manage reactions at very low volumes with great accuracy. This in turn helps to reduce costs of reagents and process a higher number of samples even within a limited budget. For best/consistent results the process of miniaturization requires optimization and alignment with external instruments. FAS bring knowledge and experience to make this process as quick, as smooth as possible.

If you have a question for Kamila, or you’re interested in learning more about liquid handling and applications for genomic solutions, please get in touch.