I really love the challenge of working as a research scientist.  I invent chemical treatment programs and monitoring tools to control microbial growth (slime and odor) in paper mills around the world.  After working for over 20-years in this field, I am still blown away by the amount of technology developed for the industry (engineering, mechanical, chemical, biological, the list goes on).  The paper industry also provides a significant number of jobs and has undertaken efforts to harvest trees using sustainable practices, traces the source of the trees to ensure responsible practices, and has reduced water consumption significantly over the past 30+ years with the goal of a 50% reduction in water use by 2030.  Ambitious goals that will require more innovation!

What I like most about my job is that no two days are the same.  Some days, I experiment (play) in the lab testing the antimicrobial efficacy of different chemicals and relevance of new tools.  I love to examine slime under the microscope.  Some bacteria look like little rods or grains of tiny rice, while other look like clusters of grapes, strands of spaghetti, Chinese characters, or even spirals.  I might also observe microscopic worms or rotifers (animal-like creatures) slurping up bacteria.

A filamentous bacterium isolated from paper mill slime. This organism was identified as Herpetosiphon based on DNA sequencing.

A stalked ciliate observed in a river water sample. Tiny structures can be seen at the top (green bulb). These create a water vortex allowing the ciliate to slurp up the tiny bacteria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other days, I conduct training or present the results of my research to colleagues or customers.  On many occasions, I have the opportunity to travel to paper mills in order to solve slime or odor problems or evaluate our new technologies.  Travel is a great perk of my job.  It is fantastic to see so many beautiful places and meet so many interesting people.  Stay tuned for a list of  states and countries I have visited for work.  I’ll be sure to include some pictures.

Thanks for reading.  I look forward to your comments.

Laura