About Monica Gaskill (left)
Monica Gaskill was a medical technician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). She analysed and tested body fluids as well as tissues. Some of her work included PCR (polymerse chain reaction), DNA/RNA extraction and sequence analysis. She worked on cdLS patient samples too. cdLS, also known as Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, is a rare genetic disease present from birth. It causes a range of physical, cognitive, and medical challenges. She is also the co-founder and treasurer of the Jefferson Science Outreach Network which promotes scientific research. She currently works at the Navy Yard.
What are the advantages of this job?
Monica: I like that I am able to help people without having to see them. I don’t really like being crowded by people I don’t really know, and I don’t have to deal with that when I am working in a lab. Since I am a lab technician, I get to work with many students and help them with their projects. This enabled me to learn how to deal with students. I also get to make my own schedule which is nice.
What about the disadvantages?
M: I don’t know how long days last. Because I can make my own schedule, there is not set work time. One day I could only stay for six hours because the work gets done early, while on other days, I might stay for ten hours trying to finish up everything. The number of hours depend a lot on the workload for the day and how long everything takes to get done.
Why do you like research?
M: I get to see what is “wrong” with people. I can find out how a type of mutation in a certain gene can affect an individual in different ways or possibly in similar ways. I’m always learning more, which I love doing. Finding answers to questions is always fulfilling too, which is a really big perk of being a researcher.
Do you find your job fulfilling?
M: Yes, definitely. I get the chance to tell parents that what happened to their child is not their fault. It also feels really great to know that I am helping even if they do not get to meet me, and even if they don’t know what exactly I am doing to help.
What do you recommend to high school students who want to pursue this type of career?
M: I would tell them to take more AP classes in high school to further speed up the process of getting to where I am currently. Also, it is definitely beneficial to try and look for opportunities in order to get a sense of how things are like. For example, volunteering at a hospital over the summer or joining a program that lets you learn basic lab knowledge and techniques. I also want to say that it is absolutely OKAY for you guys not to know what you want to do in the future because you’ll soon be able to find out. I had no clue I would take this route until the last two years of college, so just explore and open up your options for now.