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Employee Spotlight: Michael Kovarik, Senior Research Associate

Stratos Genomics Employee Spotlight is an intermittent feature on our blog that highlights our talented and dedicated staff. December's spotlight is on Senior Research Associate, Michael Kovarik.

Describe your role at Stratos Genomics.
I’m a Senior Research Associate on the Protein Engineering team. I help produce polymerases that are used in conjunction with XNTPs to create Xpandomers for sequencing. I've been involved in many aspects of our work including: optimizing conditions for protein expression, protein purification, library design, library screening, and most recently in developing a library selection strategy.

What do you look forward to when you come to work every day?
Each day is exciting because it brings an opportunity to find a new mutant polymerase that could propel our technology to the next level. Designing experiments often requires novel approaches to problems and this allows for continuous learning and outside the box thinking. New data can illuminate traits of our mutant enzymes that were previously unknown, so you always need to be ready to pivot in a new direction. These every day challenges have enabled me to learn and grow as a scientist. Seeing the combined efforts of our talented teams come together is very rewarding.

Describe your biggest “win” on a project.
The Protein Engineering team has had many wins that I've been fortunate enough to play a role in. But, the one that stands out the most for me is the recent implementation of a polymerase selection strategy that I helped develop. Our technology requires a polymerase that has capabilities that no other enzyme has. Thus, a new way to select for mutants with these traits was required. In development of this selection method, there were many technological hurdles to overcome and a lot of moving parts to account for. In the end, we were able to create something that is allowing us to enrich large libraries for the members most active with our XNTPs. Having this selection tool is allowing us to be more aggressive with library designs by increasing the number of mutants we can test by orders of magnitude.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
When I’m not at work I can be found checking out new restaurants with friends, hitting the gym, searching for my new favorite beer, and reading as much as time allows.

Little-known fact about you that would surprise people:
For a long time I thought I wanted to be an architect and it wasn't until a few years into college that I discovered how much I enjoy science. I still appreciate a good building though and make a point to see interesting structures in places I visit.

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