From Student to Scientist: Bio Grad Pursues Career in Microbiology

From Student to Scientist: Bio Grad Pursues Career in Microbiology

by Kim Wall

Thursday, August 31, 2017

UNH Manchester graduate Zach Window conducting research at his job with Boston Analytical

Photo by David Vogt

Torn between studying music or science, Zach Window ’16 opted for the latter after graduating from Bedford High School.

After starting his college career at Keene State College and finishing at UNH Manchester, Window is now a Microbiologist I with Boston Analytical where he conducts microbiological testing for pharmaceutical companies which includes environmental monitoring and other United States Pharmacopeia (USP) testing.

When he looks back at the college years, there were three opportunities he recalls that helped launch his career. The first was during his junior year when he was, quite literally, digging in the dirt. It came at the invitation of Kyle MacLea, assistant professor of biological sciences at UNH Manchester, who asked students to consider joining him in a soil metagenomics research project.

“After class I went to his office and told him I was interested. He helped me write a grant proposal to NH EPSCoR which awarded me $5,000 in the summer of 2015,” said Window.

The project was an exploratory look at how different the populations of soil microbes could be between nursery grown and wild pine trees. His research included both field work at the New Hampshire State Forest Nursery and laboratory work at UNH Manchester.

“I gathered soil samples, extracted DNA, and analyzed large sets of nucleotide data to interpret bacterial communities within red and white pine soils,” Window said.

Window and MacLea collaborated on a research poster which he presented at UNH’s Undergraduate Research Conference and at the American Society for Microbiology three-day conference in Boxboro, MA.

“It was a great opportunity to meet people working in the field,” said Window.

The second opportunity was an internship at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, N.H., where he shadowed in the hematology, microbiology, blood bank and phlebotomy laboratories.

“It was really interesting. I had never been inside a hospital laboratory. Every week I’d visit a different department and learn how they must comply with CAP, College of American Pathologists,” said Window.

The third opportunity, and perhaps of greatest impact, was the chance to work with the biology professors at UNH Manchester.

“The knowledge the biology department has in their field is really great. They were always showing us new technologies, the culture of science and how to be a good researcher,” said Window.

Window is also thankful for the continued mentorship from Professor MacLea.

“Even after I graduated and was looking for a job, he was always open to talk and we met a few times to talk about career and graduate school opportunities,” said Window.

Window has been with Boston Analytical since December 2016 and enjoys the work. Though music remains an important aspect of his life, Window has never had any regrets about pursuing science.

“In college I was given a lot of independent work opportunities. I liked that I was able to work on my own research,” he said. “When I started with Boston Analytical I was able to pick-up some of the more advanced testing procedures thanks to my experience at UNH Manchester.”

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