Jennifer Loeb always knew she wanted to work on the research and development of drugs to treat diseases. Her interests brought her to the University of Wisconsin–Madison to study biochemistry and launched an exciting career that has spanned undergraduate research, lab management, product development in Colorado — and now a job connecting scientists around the world with resources and products at the life sciences company Promega in Madison, Wisc.
The Wisconsin native grew up outside of Milwaukee and says coming to UW–Madison to study biochemistry was an easy choice. Loeb graduated with her undergraduate degree with a major in biochemistry in 2001.
“I loved biology and loved chemistry and had great teachers in school so thought biochemistry was a natural choice,” she says. “I’ve always had a passion and desire to learn more about developing drugs and therapeutics to treat different diseases and it was a great fit. UW–Madison is a top program and was right in my backyard. Something memorable about the Department of Biochemistry was hands down the professors. Now-Emeritus Professor Dave Nelson in particular was great. I loved taking a class from him and hearing him teach.”
During her undergraduate years, she did research in labs at the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy and worked there after graduation as well. She then landed jobs in product and assay development for various life sciences and biotechnology companies in Madison, Illinois and Colorado, before coming back to campus to pursue a master’s degree in biotechnology from the UW–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
After her master’s, she joined the marketing department at Promega. In her role as a Global Commercialization Marketing Manager, she works with academic and government scientists to learn about their needs and connect them with resources and products that can help them in their research.
Her work requires in-depth knowledge of many fields of science because her interactions with scientists are a two-way street. She’s spreading the word about resources at Promega but also learning what products need tweaks or about entirely new products that would make researchers’ work easier. She interacts then with other areas at Promega, such as research and development, manufacturing, and quality assurance, to analyze the feasibility of ideas for new products.
“There’s no question that the department helped me get to where I am today,” she says. “You can learn some of the business side on the job but having a grasp of the nature of biochemistry and chemical reactions is essential. While you can learn it later on it’s valuable to have a background because you work so closely with researchers. Having this degree, coupled with my diverse experiences, definitely helps me in this job.”
Along with crediting her degree with launching her career, Loeb gives back regularly to the department by donating annually. She explains that the struggles of today’s students make it even more important to give back.
“Education is extremely important to me, and it’s always been very important in my family,” she says. “My education in the department obviously had a lasting impact on my life and I want to be able to give that opportunity to other students, particularly when it comes to undergraduates exploring research and other areas. Maybe I can’t give an extremely large amount but I know every little bit helps.”
Part of her job is also being involved in outreach and competition type programs, such as iGEM, a competition that involves high school students, undergraduates, and graduate students using synthetic biology to answer a question. They then present their work before judges. Loeb involves Promega in the competition to let young scientists know the company is there for them throughout their scientific journey.
Loeb says her diverse background helped guide and shape her career, with the experiences she didn’t like meaning just as much to her as the ones she did. She advises young students to try out as many career and educational avenues as possible to find their passion.
“If you haven’t done research get involved in it, or if you’ve been in research, get an internship somewhere but in an area other than research and development,” she says. “Trying something new. Learning you don’t like it is just as valuable as learning you do like it. There are so many opportunities out there for someone educated in a fascinating field like biochemistry at a great university.”