Tony (Color Robotics Engineer)
Tell us about yourself.
I have a degree in Biochem and Molecular Biology from UC Davis and have a passion for craft brewing. After graduation I was living in Sacramento, when tragedy struck — my house caught fire and burnt down. We lost almost all of our possessions, and worst of all, our beloved cat Smoki (the tragic irony of her name was not lost on us). In an effort to rebuild, I knew a change was needed and I came across Color, eventually applying for a Clinical Lab Associate (CLA) position. I got the job in September 2017!
How would you describe the Clinical Lab Associate role and the impact of the role at Color?
Color’s lab is one of the best and most efficient out there. We utilize automation in many forms, but we still need humans to run many of our processes. CLAs specifically are in charge of receiving samples from clients, running our automated DNA extraction process, managing inventory and ordering, performing equipment maintenance, and much more. They help keep the lab running the way it does.
What is your role at Color today?
After I started at Color as a CLA, I quickly became curious about the liquid-handling robots. When you walk into the lab, you will see them everywhere. I asked a lot of questions to members of the R&D team about how they worked and dedicated some of my spare time to learn how to program them by going through a giant programmer’s manual. Our head of R&D, Justin Lock, noticed my interest and brought me on half-time to continue learning and growing. Recently, I became a full-time Robotics Engineer!
My role is a little different now. Color is dedicated to delivering accurate and consistent results to clients, so it is very important that our lab process is seamless. Robotics Engineers on the R&D team are responsible for creating the methods that the laboratory uses. We write long and complex methods on our liquid-handling robots in order to automate the DNA sequencing process for the lab. It is also our job to predict what Color’s future needs will be and build the capabilities required to carry out the company vision. This role is reliant on technical know-how, but it also heavily emphasizes creativity and not being afraid to get out of your comfort zone.
What is bioinformatics?
The human genome is over 3 billion base pairs, so the DNA sequencers in our lab generate a ton of data. At first, it is in an indecipherable format that isn’t useful to anybody. Our bioinformatics engineers write algorithms that make sense of it all. These algorithms put this seemingly random data in order so we can understand and return potentially life saving information.
What excites you about what Color is doing?
Color is equipped to save lives on a population scale. I feel the impact of what I’m doing every day. I think a lot of people don’t get to experience that in their career so I feel very lucky. Being around people who are so united by a company’s mission is infectious and makes me want to work even harder towards our common goal. Within the scope of my day-to-day work, I am excited at the level of automation in the lab that we have achieved and are continuing to strive for. The amount of samples we can process in a lab our size is amazing to see.
How has working at Color impacted you personally?
I joined Color shortly after my house fire. I filled up my Corolla up with everything I had left and moved to the Bay Area to start working. Since then, Color has helped me rebuild my life from the ground up. My managers make sure I remember that life comes before work, and have been incredibly supportive and flexible. I lived with two other guys when we lost our house. Since then, one has bought his own house and the other started and is about to finish graduate school. We all bounced back in different ways, and my bounce back has been finding Color.
It’s been almost 2 years for you here at Color. What has been your favorite memory at Color so far?
That is a tough one. All of the social events we have like company parties, off-sites, and things like that are always fun. I think my favorite times are when Lab and R&D teams have birthday celebrations every month. We even started including a veggie platter with every cake so that people can convince themselves we are being healthy.