Stacy-Anne practices a unique approach to biological discovery

NAME:

Stacy-Anne Morgan

ROLE:

Scientist

JOINED:

2016

After finishing her postdoctoral research on synthetic biology at UC Berkeley, Stacy-Anne Morgan had a strong background in solving problems using high throughput screening, a process used to conduct biochemical tests quickly and at high volume. But when she landed at Zymergen, her eyes were opened to a high throughput operation larger than anything she had experienced. Now she leads a team of scientists as they leverage the Zymergen platform in rapid pursuit of biological discoveries at scale.

“It’s a great place for out-of-the-box thinkers.”

The way we engineer biological systems at Zymergen is maybe different than how you might have learned it in an academic setting. The data drives the design, rather than a specific hypothesis. Being open to learning new things, adapting to dynamic changes, and developing new approaches are essential. No two days are ever the same.

“I want to work on things that are technically challenging.”

I like having things that are difficult to solve, and Zymergen allows me to do that day in and day out, without having to focus on the repetitive laboratory tasks and arduous waiting periods. I get to focus more time on finding solutions, and I really enjoy that. Applying my knowledge and skills in biology to real world applications is pretty awesome.

“It’s about using automation and data science to support biology.”

We build really large enzyme libraries of thousands and thousands of possibilities that can’t be screened by hand. It would simply take too long and be too error prone. So the question is, how do you find a few winners amongst all this noise? By pairing automation and advanced data science to do high throughput screening, the Zymergen platform enables me to do this way faster and more reliably than a traditional lab can, if they can at all.

“It wouldn’t be possible without the data science team.”

How can you be confident the things you think are winners are valid and worth pursuing? That is where the data science team helps us answer questions such as: Which of these samples are outliers? Which are promising candidates? How many times do we need to test something to be confident in the results?

“We’re able to integrate science, automation and data science.”

The integration of all these groups working together enables us to make progress faster and sets us apart from other companies. It also creates a cross-functional working environment that is uniquely Zymergen’s. It’s a great place to be if you enjoy learning and stretching yourself to think beyond just your area of expertise.

“It’s really about the people here.”

Because our platform is so cross-disciplinary in nature, it is essential that we build strong teams. Having great teammates to support and push each other is really fulfilling to me. I have a really awesome team, and I really like working with them. When challenges get tough, I stay focused on that because I know together we will solve it.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER:
I certainly didn’t see myself pursuing a PhD or becoming a scientist! I really enjoyed math and science but thought that meant becoming a medical doctor. Once I got to university, I realized that there were so many more opportunities beyond that.

WHAT DID YOU STUDY:
Biological chemistry.

SOMETHING THAT INSPIRED YOU RECENTLY:
For the past year and a half, I have been working with a team on an enzyme engineering project. Recently, we faced a series of challenges that put us in a difficult position to meet an important deadline. As a team, we decided on the best path forward and put a plan in place. It’s been inspiring to see how invested everyone has been and how we’ve all worked together to get things back on track and make progress toward our goal.

ONE THING MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU:
I think I’ll keep it that way. 😉

BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED:
Learn to be okay with uncomfortable situations because those are the best opportunities for growth.