Developing tools to find genes — Layla Katiraee is hosting Real Scientists!

We are excited to have Layla Katiraee (@biochicaGMO) as curator this week! Layla holds a PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of Toronto and a Bachelors degree in biochemistry from the University of Western Ontario. She is currently a Staff Scientist in DNA Sequencing Product Development at Integrated DNA Technologies. Find out all about Layla below:

Why/How did you end up in science? Jurassic Park. The movie came out when I was in my early teens and I started wondering if it was possible. It led to a deep interest in all things genetic. I did my undergraduate degree in biochemistry and my PhD in molecular genetics, where I examined an epigenetic phenomenon known as genomic imprinting.

I’m in the private sector and have been working in companies that develop DNA sequencers and assays since I finished my degree in 2008. It’s a very fast paced field, with constant change, lots of different factors outside of the science itself (marketing, manufacturing quality, etc), and my projects change on a regular basis.

I currently work at Integrated DNA Technologies. I’ve been with the company for 8 months. IDT is known for synthesizing oligonucleotides, but now has an R&D division working on sequencing products, so our branch in California is relatively new. I’m in the product development team and I currently work on three different projects that are in different phases of development. My biggest project is looking at our hybrid capture workflow, where we “fish” out specific genes from a genome that we’re interested in sequencing. I’m responsible for improving the workflow for improved results and easier handling for the customer.

Many stories in the news about genomics have DNA sequencing as the technology behind the scenes. So it’s a technology that impacts many different fields ranging from the “cancer moonshot project”, to the sequencing of DNA in space on ISS.

I have a 4 year old son that is at that stage where he’s all over everything. So we plan different activities for the weekend and evenings, particularly arts & crafts. I’m480966_10152307061310301_237170535_n also very active in the Baha’i community in my region.

I started a blog a few years ago documenting my learning about biotech crops, or GMOs. After a few years, I started volunteering for Biology Fortified, a non-profit organization that seeks to educate the public about biotech crops by offering a platform for anyone to share their thoughts, ideas, and questions about agriculture. I recently started a Facebook page to be able to reach a broader audience.

How would you describe your ideal day off? It would have to start with my kid letting me sleep in. I’d start the day by reading a fantastic book (maybe book 4 in the Cormoran Strike series?? I just finished book 3 and can’t believe that it left off on such a cliffhanger). Then, I’d go to watch an action-packed movie that needs to be seen in IMAX-3D. If it’s not kid friendly, our babysitter would take my kid for the afternoon. After that, we’d go to a really nice restaurant (my dream is to go to French Laundry someday). If I could squeeze in a 1-hr full body massage somewhere into that itinerary, I’d just die of happiness.


Please welcome Layla to Real Scientists!

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