Meet the Lab Techs of WPU — a Q&A

Christie Dix, Managing Editor

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Laboratory technicians are the heart of the science department. They lead their own projects and classes, but they’re also behind the scenes a lot of the time — they set up the labs students work on in their studies, propelling students and teachers towards success. The technicians also work one-to-one assisting students to give them the personal attention students don’t receive from professors. They are the unsung heroes of the College of Science and Health and of students’ success. Meet the diverse team and learn some more about these unique and passionate individuals!

Michael DaSilva (Environmental Science) 

Courtesy of Researchgate.net

What school did you graduate from?

My Master’s degree (geoscience, with a concentration in petrology) is from Montclair State University.

 

Who is your favorite scientist, and why?

Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I’m a space-science junky and astonished by the higher-order thinking of astrophysicists. Prior to my tenure at WPU, I worked at The American Museum of Natural History in the division of Physical Sciences, so I frequently chatted with Neil.

 

What is your favorite part of your career?

Working with students in our geochemistry labs and witnessing the “eureka” moment when they understand the data or the theory behind the analytical instrumentation is my favorite part.

 

What subjects/ advances in science inspire you?

Space science themes inspire me, specifically planetary geology of Mars, etc. More so, I’m keen on reading about advances in mitigating climate change and the green technologies available to society.

 

Any funny stories about your time at WPU?

Not so much anymore, but I’m typically thought of as a student!

 

If you could give students one piece of advice, what would it be?

Learning is a process! Get involved with research outside the classroom. Ask questions and stay positive.

 

What do you want people to know about you?

Being a lab tech typically has an indoor designation, but I am truly an outdoor enthusiast. I enjoy mountain biking, sailing, running and competing in endurance races.

 

Trish Bush (Biology) 

Courtesy of Trish Bush

What school did you graduate from?

I am an alumnus of William Paterson University itself for both my Bachelor of Science in general biology and Master of Science in biology with a concentration in physiology.  When I was an undergrad student, I was a federal work study student of the biotechnology technician, Susan Sgro. This position gave me opportunities of learning lab skills beyond what we students learn in class.  I was offered the Microbiology Technician position when I was in my senior year, and I accepted!

 

What is your favorite part of your career?

My favorite part of being in the science education field is working with students who have aspirations and seek to fulfill those aspirations. This has given me the opportunity to guide students in the behind the scene work for our lab courses. These students have been my own work study students, and in this position, they have been able to use skills they have learned to obtain jobs in different scientific fields.  I also have had the chance to advise students in their research projects, where we both learn new information.

 

What subjects/ advances in science inspire you?

What lead me to become a biologist was reading medical thrillers and fictional forensic books early on in life. Authors such as Robin Cook and Jeffrey Deaver gave me examples of how life could be due to the applications they addressed. Fictional books can be surprising in their portrayal of the advances of science. Yes, they are fictional, but based on facts. What furthered my interest in this particular field was becoming an adjunct professor. I mostly teach Microbiology lecture and lab, and in teaching students, you can learn more. 

 

Any funny stories about your time at WPU?

My time at WPU has been an original story of life. Working with my fellow lab techs makes every day noteworthy. Even in our casual conversations, science comes up, and we can twist that into an amusing course. Lots of laughter among us is what carries out the day.

 

What do you want people to know about you?

My advice to students is to dabble in a few fields of science before taking a career in one. Each taste of science can direct you to where you feel you belong.

 

Sue Sgro (Biology)

Courtesy of Sue Sgro

What school did you graduate from?

Undergraduate – Biochemistry BA from Cook College, a part of Rutgers New Brunswick

Graduate – Biotechnology Master’s degree from WPU

 

Who is your favorite scientist, and why?

Sorry – so many great ones, it is difficult to just pick one! The big ones that come to mind: Watson & Crick & Rosalind Franklin for deciphering the structure of DNA and kicking off the biotech revolution. Einstein and Tesla are up there too – great minds that think out of the box.

 

What is your favorite part of your career?

My favorite part is helping the faculty and students with their research and troubleshooting problems. I love puzzles.

 

What subjects/advances in science inspire you?

I’ve always been interested in aging, especially since I’m getting older! I currently teach the Scanning Electron Microscopy course, so the microscopy field is one that I like to keep current in.

 

Any funny stories about your time at WPU?

Not sure if you’ll find this funny or not, but I remember when I started working here in 1984 that we had only one computer that served the entire biology department. It’s amazing how technology has accelerated everything.

 

If you could give students one piece of advice, what would it be?

Try to make the most of your time and friends at WPU. Make it memorable!

 

What do you want people to know about you?

I love crafting (especially card making with rubber stamps) and gardening.

 

Michael Wyrwa (Botany/Biology) 

What school did you graduate from?

Both of my degrees are from Rutgers.

 

Who is your favorite scientist, and why?

My favorite scientist would have to be Nicola Tesla. He was the underappreciated mind behind virtually all of modern technology. Everything from the current in our electrical outlets to computers, radios and more.

 

What is your favorite part of your career?

My favorite part of my career is not so much the science, but working with my student workers and students in my classes.

 

Any funny stories about your time at WPU?

I remember tagging along with Dr. Sebetich (retired now) on a field walk with his field biology lab one time, and while down by the waterfall, he told his students to follow him and disappeared from sight for a few moments.  He stepped on a pile of leaves floating on a pool of water and went under. He thought he was stepping on land and got quite a surprise. He was okay but came out saturated head to toe.

 

If you could give students one piece of advice, what would it be?

I really try not to give too much advice, but if I could say one thing it would be that along with the scientific knowledge you are pursuing here, work on learning people skills. We need more people who can talk to a wide variety of people and understand science.