Professionalism, Knowledge and Quality

Interview with an IdeaConnection Problem Solver
Dr. Ryan Fink: My background is relatively broad, I started my scientific career working towards my bachelor degree in natural population genetics of Norway spruce. I received my Ph.D. in 2000 from the University of Milan, Italy, on a research focused on the genetics and molecular biology of eukaryotic systems (plants), including the development of molecular markers, and gene mapping.

photo of Ryan FinkTowards the end of my graduate studies, I became interested in the oxidative stress mechanisms in plants. Thus, I joined the laboratory of Dr. John Scandalios at North Carolina State University (NCSU) for post-doctoral training. My research with Dr. Scandalios focused on the effects of oxidative stress in plants and their molecular mechanisms of defense.

During my work with Dr. Scandalios, I became aware of the importance of antioxidant mechanisms in host-pathogen interactions (signaling and response to invasion). The widely available genomic and proteomic information for model species led me to join Dr. Hosni Hassan’s research group at NCSU.

There I investigated the modulation of the response to oxidative stress in the prokaryotic model species Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Escherichia coli, and the interaction between the regulatory genes Fur, ArcA, and FNR.

Attracted by a supposedly balmy weather, I moved to South Florida and joined Dr. Murray Deutscher's team at the “Leonard Miller” School of Medicine at the University of Miami. During this time, I had opportunity to develop independent projects in collaboration with HerbalScience Group, LLC to identify the mode-of-action of extracts with antiviral and antimicrobial properties and isolate the small molecules causing this response.

At the end of my contract with the University of Miami, I joined full-time HerbalScience Group LLC as the Director of Biological Science until 2009, when I had enough of mosquitoes, molds, and the “balmy” tropical weather and gave a try to the opposite extreme in Minnesota.

There I joined Dr. Diez-Gonzalez' laboratory as a Research Associate to determine the correlation of cattle-feed and prevalence of Escherichia coli O157:H7. I still very much enjoy the Minnesotan weather and take every opportunity to try to freeze to death by cross-country skiing and ice-skating at temperature that would be more appropriate to store glycerol stocks!

I strongly believe that doing research is problem solving. As scientists we are required to pose fundamental scientific questions and find answers to them, evaluating their impact on the scientific field and on the society.

I discovered the IdeaRally® by word of mouth; friends that knew about it suggested it and I decided to give it a try. The main factor that prompted me to sign up is the possibility to participate and provide contributions when my schedules allows for it (e.g., during weekends and evenings).

This was my first time being involved in an IdeaRally®. It was extremely stimulating and it pushed me to seek and elaborate information and knowledge that otherwise I would not have sought.

Working on and building on the ideas of other contributors was extremely enjoyable. The plurality of perspectives on a certain idea can open new directions of thoughts and, ultimately, stimulate the creativity.

I appreciated having a Facilitator onsite during the Rally. Having different perspectives on one side opens up the discussion to out-of-the-box ideas, but, at the same time, diffuses the focus of the debate. The Facilitator helped in keeping the focus on the matter that is discussed in the Rally and avoided tangential discussions that would derail from the scope.

I was extremely surprised to be a winner. It was very exciting, because the majority of the ideas and contributions made during the Rally were extremely well thought and articulated. Being a winner was a reason of pride with the feeling to have provided important ideas to solve important problems.

I am looking forward to participating in other Rallies. I must say that winning an award is a factor, particularly because I felt that my contribution was valuable. However, I will participate again regardless because of the nice experience I had discussing an important topic with so many brilliant scientists.

I really think that the IdeaRally® format is a very good way to get a large set of ideas that are focused on a specific problem, but are coming from different directions. I was impressed by the professionalism and knowledge of the facilitators, the quality of the website, and the responsiveness of the staff.

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