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Ernie Gemeinhart juggles a myriad of responsibilities--happily: managing lab details allows researchers to develop better drug delivery methods.

His name is Ernest Gemeinhart but around the lab he is known as Ernie. That's because Gemeinhart doesn't like to keep things formal and is what one would call a "people person."

"I like to chat. I am the starter of conversations at lunch and captain of intramural sports teams," Gemeinhart says. "I like to try to arrange fun stuff like that."

Gemeinhart's involvement and approachableness allow his laboratory operations to run efficiently every day.

The Biomedical Polymer Science Laboratory of the University of Illinois at Chicago is a 2500-square-foot research lab involved in designing polymers that interact with cells to induce a favorable biological response. Specifically, the lab is involved with delivering drugs to cancer cells.

"We use the biology of the tumor to deliver these drugs very wisely to cancer cells without causing systematic toxicity in the body," Gemeinhart explains. "So it's a very direct [drug] delivery method. In addition to plastics and polymers, we're also using peptides, which are very tiny proteins."

Gemeinhart and his team have published papers on their work dealing with brain and ovarian cancer.

"We're also working a little bit on breast cancer," he adds. "We hope to get some patents out that industry might pick up."

Training Future Researchers

Gemeinhart joined the lab at its inception in 2001. Since then he has been responsible for every aspect of operations. Aside from personally training the students, Gemeinhart places all the purchase orders, maintains and repairs the equipment, and takes care of the lab cells. But his real gift is managing details in such a way that allows the students to do the research.

At any given time, Gemeinhart supervises about ten university students. He is also involved in evaluating incoming students for the research team.

Communication skills, outgoingness and gustiness are the qualities he looks for when searching for a new team member. Watching the enthusiasm of students when they first start at the lab is a real treat for Gemeinhart.

"Even if it's something I've done a million times, seeing the excitement in students' faces when I teach them a new experiment is refreshing," he explains.

However, the biggest satisfaction Gemeinhart gets from his job is watching his crew move on.

"It's good to see students leave," he said. "When they graduate or succeed, when they get that big job in the industry, that's exciting for me."

Looking for Challenges

Since Gemeinhart started on the job, there has never been a day where experiments had to be delayed because of lack of supplies, equipment failure or a stumped crew. By switching roles all the time, this lab manager makes sure operations never cease.

"The spectrum of my responsibilities goes from sitting at my desk and making purchase orders or call-in orders for supplies and chemicals, to administrative work, all the way to experiments, and everything in between, too," Gemeinhart says.

Some days, he plays the plumber and ends up fixing a leaky faucet or unclogging a drain. Other days, Gemeinhart performs experiments.

But for Ernie, the most taxing duties are those that are less mentally demanding.

"The biggest challenge is always the paperwork and all the silly stuff you trudge through," he explains. "Sitting at the computer making purchase orders is challenging because it's not exciting.

The best challenges are the scientific ones; they're exciting and fun."

The most rewarding ones, Gemeinhart explains, are when he and his team hit a rough spot and the group perseveres and finally finds a solution. "The mental enrichment I get from this is really one of the best parts of the job."

Gemeinhart meets these challenges head on by organizing a lot of discussions within the lab, with other labs in the university, and with researchers in the field.

"It's all perseverance," he says. "You can't just sit back and let it try to solve itself because it's not going to happen. If there weren't challenges, I wouldn't show up anymore."

Ernest J. Gemeinhart Research Specialist in Biopharmaceutical Sciences

Biomedical Polymer Science Laboratory The University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL


* B.S.--Marine Biology, Rodda Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL

* B.S.--Aquaculture, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL

* Graduate courses taken at the George Washington University and National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC

* Five and a half years experience as a research specialist in biopharmaceutical sciences at the University of Illinois, Chicago, IL

* Two years experience as part-time faculty at George Washington Universe, Washington, DC

Industry Served:

* Pharmaceutical solutions end drug delivery using polymer chemistry

Equipment Used:

* Epi-fluorescence microscope (Olympus IX70)

* FT-IR spectrometer

* Confocal microscope

* Various microplate readers (fluorescence and UV-Vis)

* HPLC (Waters)


If you would like to nominate a "Great Laboratory Manager," please send that individual's name, title, research facility and a brief description of their unique qualities to pamela.ahlberg@ advantagemedia,com.
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Title Annotation:BEST PRACTICES: Great Laboratory Managers
Author:Goudarzi, Sara
Publication:Laboratory Equipment
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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