Ryan Pepper | Molecular Genetic Technology Class of 2010
Ryan Pepper was a student at the University of Texas at Austin, about to enter his senior year in the Human Biology program, when he attended a recruiting fair on the UT campus. One of the speakers was Dr. Peter Hu, Program Director for the School of Health Professions Molecular Genetics (MGT). Dr. Hu described the program and Ryan says he realized that this was a field he wanted to enter. He applied to the SHP, was accepted and became a member of the SHP’s first Junior class in 2009. He says,
“This was my first molecular genetics laboratory experience. The Junior year allowed me to develop a strong background in Molecular Genetics. When I advanced to the Senior year, this strong background enabled me to help the incoming students who were new to genetic testing.”
During the last semester of his Senior year, Ryan participated in the MGT program’s summer internship that immerses a student in clinical experiences. Ryan was the first student to rotate through the DNA Diagnostics Laboratory at Yale University. He recalls,
“There I got hands-on experience with molecular techniques including DNA extraction, Sanger Sequencing, Restriction Digests and Southern Blots, among other things. I sincerely believe that this gave me real-world expectations about what to prepare for when entering this professional field.”
Upon graduation, Ryan had four employment offers and chose to work in the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He says,
“Once I graduated, I was interested in gaining employment in labs that would enable me to expand my knowledge base, and enhance my career prospects. I recognized that the focus in Molecular Genetics was shifting to Next Generation Sequencing and Automation, with a constant push to increase patient safety throughout. I volunteered for any additional projects within these areas, which resulted in my being the first technologist to work in the MiSeq NGS clinical station, along with multiple other NGS validations. From there I became a founding member of a patient safety committee that monitored different metrics within the laboratory to ensure patient safety, compliance and efficiency. As automation was introduced within the laboratory, I helped create and validate multiple applications while becoming certified in Tecan automation in the process.”
He says working for the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at MD Anderson allowed him to advance his career and open more doors than he could have imagined as a student. In October 2015, Ryan was offered and accepted the position of Assistant Director of Sequencing at The Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research within Baylor College of Medicine. Ryan describes his work there:
“I assist in running a Next Generation Sequencing branch in a microbiome lab in which we receive extracted DNA, ensure that proper QC metrics are met, and then generate data using the appropriate instrumentation. We then pass the data to our team of Bioinformaticians to analyze.”
He also helps oversees quality control and assurance over all aspects of the laboratory, from sample receiving to reporting, making sure all compliance standards are met with various accrediting agencies. He feels strongly that the SHP and working for the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at MD Anderson gave him the opportunities and experience necessary to qualify him for this new position.
He highly recommends the Molecular Genetic Technology program at the SHP for anyone interested in a career in Molecular Genetics.