An Interview with Barton Slatko, Senior Scientist at New England BioLabs, Inc.

1. You’re well known among GMGI staff, but could you please introduce yourself to those who may not know you?

My name is Barton Slatko and I am a Senior Scientist at New England Biolabs, Inc (NEB). I’ve been at NEB for about 34 years. My research interests are human and animal parasitology, mechanisms of symbiosis and technology development. I also have a strong interest in teaching. I came to NEB on sabbatical from Williams College to become more versed in molecular biology (I was trained as a geneticist) and take techniques back for teaching and research. In those days, recombinant DNA and sequencing and associated techniques were really in their infancy and I felt training students would be a high priority for my lab and the College as well. As it turned out, I fell in love with the science, the approaches and people at NEB and gave up my position at Williams to join NEB, thanks to the offer from president and founder, Don Comb. I have been fortunate to still be involved in teaching a several levels as part of my role at NEB.

2. You’ve been involved with the Gloucester Biotechnology Academy for some time now. How did you first hear about the program?

Several events transpired at the same time to key me in to the Academy. First, I had known several of the principals in GMGI due to our overlapping science interests. Second, GMGI came to NEB and spoke about their future plans, which I thought was very intriguing. Third, I met John Doyle and his energy, enthusiasm and abilities quickly hooked me into the program and fell in line with my long-standing interest in teaching. As the program was being developed we worked a bit on curriculum with another scientist at NEB, Andy Gardner, who also has an interest in teaching.

3. Since then, how has your involvement changed and grown with the program?

John Doyle and his team have done an amazing job with the Academy and we are in communication about approaches, experiments and equipment and reagents that NEB can provide. Thanks to our CEO Jim Ellard and our HR group, we have been supportive of the program and able to provide internships for several students each year. I try to attend the open houses and “meet and greet” the students, which I find interesting and worthwhile. I also attend the GMGI day-long events, when I can, as they are truly examples of great science on the North Shore. It has been exciting to see the program mature.

4. This year, you will be taking one of the Academy students as your intern. What do you expect to get out of the experience? And on the flip side, what do you think your intern can expect to get out of their experience in working with you and at NEB?

I consider the internships a two-way street where we will all be learning and experiencing the lab environment that the students have been trained for. None of the experiments are “canned” and we will be moving our research program forward with their help. I expect that the internship will be exciting for them, give them a taste of trials and tribulations of research in a group lab setting and be a positive experience as it moves them to their future endeavors. I realize the time commitment on my part but I think at the end of the internship we will be excited to see how far we have progressed.

5. What advice do you have for the Academy students who will be graduating in 3 short months?

Graduating from any program and stepping out into the “real world” can be intimidating. They should recognize that we have all had to do it also. But I know, because of my involvement in the program, that they are well trained at many levels and ready. My main advice is simply be who you are, rely on what you have learned and even not-learned. Bear in mind that no matter what has been taught to you, there is even more out there to discover. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and use your knowledge and experience to frame the projects.

I’d like to leave Academy students with a quote from an inscription on Hopkins Gate at Williams College: “Climb High, Climb Far, Your Goal The Sky, Your Aim, the Star.” Congratulations to all of you for your hard work, diligence and willingness to take a leap of faith at the Academy.

Click here to view the March 2018 Newsletter >>

Barton Slatko,
Senior Scientist at New England BioLabs

Barton with his interns.

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