The DNA of Clear Labs: Meet Stephanie Pollard, PhD
August 28, 2019
Welcome to “The DNA of Clear Labs,” an interview series where we speak with our teammates, who are the very DNA of our company. In this interview, I spoke with Stephanie Pollard, PhD, who’s a validation and technical applications manager at Clear Labs.
When did you develop your passion for food safety?
I am an applied microbiologist at heart and have always had a love for the study of microbes (particularly bacteria). I stumbled across the field of food safety while in graduate school when I was exploring ways to apply my passion for the study of microorganisms to solve real-world problems.
What would you say are your biggest milestones or contributions to this field?
Clear Labs has really enabled me to advance the field of food safety by applying new technologies that have never been used in this field before. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has opened many new doors for this field by enabling scientists to have a deeper understanding of the microbial ecology of foods and to begin making connections between microbial communities and pathogen prevalence that could lead to breakthrough discoveries and products. I’ve been able to play a role in communicating the impact of these advancements to the rest of the food safety community through my active involvement in the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) professional community.
How did your career path lead you to Clear Labs?
My first role out of graduate school was at the PepsiCo world headquarters in Purchase, NY. I was part of the Global Food Safety team just when the FDA passed the new FSMA regulations and food safety was a large focus at many food companies and government agencies. I was able to learn from some of the greatest minds in food safety and product development at one of the largest food companies in the world while working on food safety policies and program implementation.
While my time at PepsiCo was very rewarding, I did grow to miss being closer to the benchtop and started searching for roles that would bring me back to the applied microbiology field and help me to build on my experience gained from my dissertation research projects developing pathogen detection assays. Clear Labs was a perfect fit with a great opportunity for me to expand on an existing foundation of applied microbiology and play a role in bringing sequencing technology to the food industry.
What advice do you have for students who are considering a career in food safety? What do you wish you would have known?
Ask questions and take initiative to research opportunities in the food safety space. There are many avenues to explore a career in food safety from food safety policy and program development and processing technologies to food toxicology and microbiology. Be proactive and seek out opportunities and mentors who can help guide your career and broaden your thinking.
Why do you like working for Clear Labs?
Clear Labs has provided me with opportunities to learn about new technologies such as NGS and how these technologies can be applied to advance the field of food safety and quality.
Furthermore, I’ve had the opportunity to work among some very brilliant minds in fields from molecular biology and bioinformatics to data science and automation. I find genuine fulfillment in the kind of work I am able to take part in at Clear Labs and hope to continue to move the food safety field forward through new technology development and applications.
Want to Join Clear Labs?
Check out our open job opportunities.