Meet the Hello Bio team: Paula Klockner
In our new blog post series, we're introducing you to the entire Hello Bio team, so you can get to know us a bit better. We’re a team of scientists (and friends!) who care passionately about supporting life scientists. Now it's time to visit our US office and meet our Head of US Operations - Paula Klockner!
So Paula, what did you want to be when you were younger?
I was one of those annoying kids that was curious about everything. I wanted to be an Egyptologist when I was in 2nd grade. That stayed with me until I realized it would be too limiting and it’d be better to be an archaeologist or paleontologist so I could learn even more. That ended when a school guidance counselor said I wasn’t suited for it, that I’d be better off in the business field. I grew up in the woods and was fascinated watching the plants and wildlife grow and change with the seasons, so I went into Horticulture. It still wasn’t enough, so I got my Master Gardener’s Certification then ended up on the Rutgers Master Gardener Speakers Bureau and taught Master Gardener classes on Herbaceous Perennials, Ornamental Horticulture and some L.I.S.A. (Low Input Sustainable Agriculture).
What made you pursue a career in the life science industry?
That was pure fate and deeply personal. I had been in horticulture for years until I was in a very bad car accident which resulted in a closed-head Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I look back on it as one of the best things that happened to me. It took me years of cognitive therapy to learn to read again and to remember I had children, when they weren’t right in front of me. I could no longer remember plants. NJ has a Vocational Rehab program which my cognitive specialists enrolled me in. I took it and learned Microsoft again. Then, I took a job temping. I looked at it as an opportunity to work at multiple places and decide what I wanted to do. I was hired as the Eastern US Office Manager for S.E.D.E.R.E. This was my first real exposure to the scientific research world. It was inspiring and I decided I wanted to learn more. I was able to attend PITTCON and other trade shows, and to meet researchers from around the world. I would sit in on presentations whenever possible. When S.E.D.E.R.E. decided to close the US office, I was fortunate enough to interview for a position with Ascent Scientific and now, I’m back with the same team at Hello Bio.
What’s your favourite science quote?
“When kids look up to great scientists the way they do musicians, actors [and sports figures], civilization will jump to the next level.” – Brian Greene (Prof. Columbia University & co-founder of the World Science Festival)
“The important thing is to never stop questioning [or learning].” Albert Einstein
Which scientists working today do you admire and why?
That’s a tough one. I like Bill Nye – the Science Guy, and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson for how they inspire children to learn.
But, as I stated earlier, I suffered a closed head TBI. It changed my life. As I began to improve with thrice weekly cognitive therapy, and I could remember things again, I started to analyze what was happening with my brain. I swear I could “feel” my brain working. As a result, I am partial to Graham Collingridge, the 2016 co-winner of The Brain Prize.
If you weren't working in life sciences, what do you think you would be doing?
I would probably be out in the field learning everything I can about America’s ancient Puebloans or running an InSAR satellite to locate ancient structures and mounds. Who were these people? Where and when did they come to North America? Can we extract DNA and link them to living descendants?
What do you think is the greatest scientific discovery of all time?
We’ve come a long way since Crick & Watson in mapping the Human Genome. They would be so excited today. Look at what we are learning using CRISPR for editing. Now you can order home DNA tests to see where your ancestors were from and what diseases you may be predisposed to. Look at what they are doing with 3-D medical printing. Organ donors will soon become a thing of the past. This is only the beginning!
Rarely a day goes by that I don’t read or hear about some scientific advancement. I think we are on the cusp of a new era. In my opinion, now is the most exciting time in history for scientific discoveries and I am thrilled to be a witness. Look at your colleagues around the world. I bet there are some that make your eyes pop with their discoveries. That is a good thing. It is motivation for everyone else in the field.
Science is an ever-changing process. As we advance and discover new things, it will mean changing the past views. That is a good thing. It means we, as a species, are evolving. We are using our brains to better not only our species, but all species. Mankind should never be stagnant and complacent in science.
However, I would like to add that there is a disturbing trend nowadays. It’s called pseudoscience. I remember when science was looked upon with respect. Now, unfortunately, it seems that pseudoscience is on the verge of taking over for actual fact-based science. It amazes and scares me to listen to how many people don’t want to believe what has been scientifically proven because it does not fit their agenda or internal bias. This is very dangerous.
What do you enjoy most about working for Hello Bio?
Without a doubt, the people! I love speaking with the researchers. I love reading their PubMed papers. As a non-scientist, I may not understand everything, but I do read them. It helps me expand my mind, even when it means spending time looking up and learning new words and terminology. I love it! Keep those papers coming.