The DNA of Clear Labs: Meet Shadi Shokralla, PhD
October 2, 2019
Welcome to “The DNA of Clear Labs,” an interview series where we speak with our teammates, who form the very DNA of our company. In this interview, I spoke with Shadi Shokralla, who’s a senior scientist at Clear Labs. If you want to read more about life at Clear Labs, you can read the following interviews:
When did you develop your passion for food safety?
My background is in pharmacy. So, I’m very interested in human and animal health, and food safety has a very important role to ensure a healthy community. I used to do research on bacterial resistance during my master’s in microbiology, and my PhD is in molecular biology and next-generation sequencing (NGS). With time, I found that my passion is to take my academic research to the next level by applying it to the food industry.
What would you say are your biggest milestones or contributions to this field?
My first contribution stemmed from a research project with the FDA. We used DNA sequencing for the detection of seafood fraud and the presence of any traces of invasive and toxic species.
At Clear Labs, I’ve been able to leverage that experience. I’ve helped the Clear Labs team develop multiple NGS assays, including those for our authenticity tests, which detect animal and plant species in food samples and flag unexpected ingredients, those for our genetically modified organism (GMO) tests, as well as comprehensive microbiome profiling test, which can help ensure a product’s quality over the course of its shelf life.
In addition to our Clear Transparency tests, I was proud to be a member of the assay development team for Clear Safety, our flagship product for routine pathogen testing. I have contributed in the development of both our Salmonella and Listeria assays.
How did your career path lead you to Clear Labs?
I am fascinated with the advances in the next-generation DNA sequencing and the amount of genetic information we can get from a single test. I had many years of developing NGS tests for research purposes. Before I joined Clear Labs, my dream had always been to create real-world solutions using NGS technologies – solutions that could be utilized by food manufacturers to improve food quality and safety, which would, in turn, have a direct impact on improving human health.
What advice do you have for students who are considering a career in food safety? What do you wish you would have known?
The field of food safety still has a lot of room for innovation and Improvements. My advice to students and junior scientists is to always ask questions, think outside the box, don’t take any testing technology as the gold standard, be proactive, and try to leverage your research to create real-world applications.
How has Clear Labs empowered you as a scientist? And why do you like working for Clear Labs?
Clear labs provided me with the professional environment to take my research outside the lab and develop products that benefit the food industry in the US and abroad. At Clear Labs, I have the opportunity to work and learn from different experts in their fields, including our bioinformatics, engineering, automation, and commercial teams. I love the open environment of Clear Labs. It encourages me to share my ideas freely and receive great feedback.
I am pleased to be a part of Clear Labs’ brilliant team and hope to continue generating unique NGS tools to improve the field of food safety. That way, food professionals can answer questions that could not be answered previously through traditional methods.
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