‘I could be happy doing other things’

Five questions with Addgene’s Alanna Mitsopoulos
Laurel Oldach
May 19, 2021

When Alanna Mitsopoulos decided that her aspiration to become a forensic scientist was not practical for financial reasons, it spurred a lot of exploration — and she found that there were many jobs to consider.


Name: Alanna Mitsopolous

Current position: Viral vector senior technician, Addgene

Career path: Bachelor's degree, biochemistry and forensic science

First job outside of academia: Embryologist

Favorite molecule or protein: p30, a prostate-specific antigen used to detect semen at crime scenes

Mitsopoulos told ASBMB Today about her career path and her current role at the nonprofit AddGene, which catalogues and distributes plasmids for research. This interview has been condensed and edited.

Tell me about your scientific training?

I've been interested in science since middle school, when I did a women in science and engineering program. In college I did a biochemistry degree with a forensic science concentration. My senior year, I did an internship with the Boston Police Department crime lab, right at the time of all the scandals with the Massachusetts state labs. (Editor's note: In 2011 and 2013, two state forensic scientists were accused and later convicted of falsifying evidence in criminal cases and stealing confiscated drugs, respectively.) They actually just made a Netflix documentary on it. I'm watching it and thinking, "I remember this conversation happening!"

Wow. So what was your role?

The crime lab was considering switching to a different preliminary test to look for semen for sexual assault cases. They had a lot more to do because the state labs had shut down; with the backlog of evidence, they were trying to reduce false positives and avoid sending something out for secondary analysis that would come back without any DNA. There wasn't a lot of (comparative) research, so I dug really deep to find information on how the tests work so that after I left they could decide whether to switch.

First job after college?

To pursue forensic science, I would have needed to go to grad school, and I didn't have the money to do that right away. In exploring other careers, I realized that I could be happy doing other things; that's when I found embryology. I spent four years in an in vitro fertilization clinic, doing everything from egg retrieval to inseminating, assessing the embryos, and freezing or transferring them.

Now you're at Addgene. What do you do there?

I'm part of the viral vector team; we produce readymade virus aliquots to make it easier for researchers. My average day involves culturing cells — those are always being taken care of — and following my virus prep through till the end: harvesting, purifying and concentrating the virus. Our team takes turns to do quality control checks; we're very proud of the way we handle quality control to confirm that we're sending the customer exactly what we say we are.

Advice for younger scientists?

Internships are the best way to get experience. But when that's not possible — because internships are hard to get, especially now — make yourself stand out in some way. Have your professors review your resume and your cover letter. And always look into the company that you're hoping to be a part of.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Laurel Oldach

Laurel Oldach is a science writer for the ASBMB.

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in Industry

Industry highlights or most popular articles

Getting information about industry

Getting information about industry

Jan. 14, 2022

After covering industry careers for more than two years, columnist Courtney Chandler is taking up a new beat. But here is some parting advice about informational interviews.

‘I could not ask for more’

‘I could not ask for more’

Jan. 7, 2022

“In the end, I would say it was not a challenge but an honor that after so much hard work we were able to develop a vaccine that works to treat patients.”

Top 10 most-read original stories
Editor's Note

Top 10 most-read original stories

Dec. 28, 2021

It's the end of the year, and you know what that means: It's time for newspapers, magazines and other publications to share their most-read lists. And we're no different.

More than a year's worth of 5 questions

More than a year's worth of 5 questions

Dec. 24, 2021

Over the past year and a half, our science writer talked to members who work in industry about their paths. Check out those short and sweet interviews.

Best of BMB in 2021

Best of BMB in 2021

Dec. 22, 2021

This subjective list reflects a field alive with discoveries driven by new computational tools and molecular techniques, recent advances in structural biology, and widespread interest in treating and preventing diseases.

Society news for December
Society News

Society news for December

Dec. 16, 2021

Find out everything that’s been going on lately at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.