Joanne Kamens

Executive Director, Addgene

And - PhD and Founder, Boston chapter of The Association for Women in Science

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Find a network of like-minded, geeky women scientists and support one another. They are all a fantastic source of support, information and confidence.

What do you do?

Addgene is a nonprofit biotechnology company that helps scientists share useful materials and data. The thing we are most known for is collecting and distributing plasmids which are little circles of DNA used by molecular biologists to study genes. Addgene has about 100 people now and we deliver over 750 items to scientists around the world every work day. Being the ED of a nonprofit is the same as being a CEO. I manage the company along with my fantastic leadership team. I am hired by the Board of Directors to lead the company culture, strategy, and over all logistical management.

Why did you choose this field?

I got my first microscope at 9 and never looked back. I always loved biology but my 10th grade biology teacher did a unit on genetics (as in Mendel’s Peas) and I was hooked by the logic. Molecular biology was dawning as a field as I entered college so it was an exciting time. I did bench science for 30 years, but of course, now I am in management! I still use my science all the time but the business/management side is different.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I never expected to have the skills or be in the right position to lead a science company. It still surprises me. I thought I would be pipetting forever. I loved pipetting, but this is fun too.

Why do you love working in STEM?

Being a scientist to me is always learning. I like learning and I like working on a team to make things happen. That’s what gets me going.

Best advice for next generation?

Find a network of like-minded, geeky women scientists and support one another. I’ve been involved in many different women in science networks and they are all a fantastic source of support, information and confidence.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

I am a level 40 Pokemon Go player. I love crossword puzzles and I read about 80 books a year.

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