People are always surprised that Talia Mitchell holds such a responsible position at her young age. Mitchell received her BS from the College before getting an advanced degree. Then, only five years after completing graduate school, she went on to manage the Clinical Genomics Laboratory at The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) in Farmington, Connecticut. Here is what she said in an interview.
What was your major in the College? When did you graduate? With what degree? In 2009, I received a BS in diagnostic genetics sciences with a concentration in molecular genetics.
What class was most useful to you? It was not just one class but more of a combination of DGS program-specific courses. These classes built a solid foundation that led into the clinical practicum.
In a cytogenetics lab class, I got to karyotype chromosomes. I remember looking through a microscope at my own chromosome and thinking, “This is really cool.”
Tell us some of your fond memories of UConn. I had good experiences in several buildings around campus. For example, I was in New Haven dorm as a freshman and became friends with all the girls on my floor. I remember the common interests I had with my classmates, who were in Koons Hall for labs and classes. I have memories of being in Homer Babbidge Library, finding a spot to study and cramming for finals. South Dining Hall had good food.
Please describe your current job. As manager of the Clinical Genomics Laboratory at JAX, I am responsible for the day-to-day lab operations, and I supervise four technicians. We develop and apply state of the art technologies in molecular genetics and next-generation sequencing to help cancer patients.
The first clinical diagnostic test developed at JAX is called the JAX Cancer Treatment Profile. The panel assesses all identified clinical variants for clinical relevance. It is valuable for patients with solid tumors who have exhausted their therapy options. Physicians who are treating these patients receive reports that list drugs approved for specific tumor types as well as those drugs available for clinical trials.
For the future, we are looking at assays for improvements to include other cancers, such as hematologic ones.
Are you doing what you imagined you would be doing at this point in your life? When I was at UConn, I assumed I would be a technician for a number of years. I never thought I would be managing a lab this soon. It is an incredible experience, and I am fortunate to find myself in a place where I enjoy what I do.
Do you have any advice for current students that will help them in the future? 1) Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. 2) Work really hard. 3) Don’t underestimate the value of a new opportunity because it could open doors to experiences you did not know were possible.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? When I am not at work, I am home with my dog, Oliver, or going out with friends. I love the sun and plan to visit Cape Cod as often as possible this summer.
By Patsy Evans