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Monday, December 04, 2006


As technology progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to keep ones resume packed with the proper buzzwords. Protein purification has a new one, and the word is AKTA. The FPLC (left) and the Explorer (right) are two systems that fall under the title AKTA. ÄKTA purifier systems are part of ÄKTA design, a range of liquid chromatography systems for academic and industrial research laboratories.
For the past ten years the Cargo Cult scientist has purified proteins as the need arose. If a protein was His-tagged I would employ an IMAC column. If it was an IgG molecule I would use a protein-A column. The list is long but anyone should be able to match up a column to a molecule.
The reason I'm talking about this is because I just missed out on a job opportunity because I lacked experience with the AKTA systems. Three years purifying proteins at a Nobel Prize winning lab did not make up for the 3 day training course offered by Phamacia on their AKTA purifying systems. Ten years experience in biotechnology purifying proteins when needed did not equal the 3 day training course. A degree in Biochemistry and an undergraduate research project purifying an enzyme from plant material did not count as protein purification experience. AKTA is where it's at.
It occurs to the Cargo Cult Scientist that the industry is in need of a new paradigm. Those who ponder scientific questions can be put into the category of "creative sciences." Those who deal with the FDA and the equipment utilized to push the drugs out the door can be put into the "applied sciences." The majority of the workers in the latter category need only obtain vocational degrees in the biotech/pharma industry. The benifit to the industry could be a lower cost of labor. They hire a manager who completely understands the science behind chromatography for example. The manager hires a staff of workers from the local community college. This staff understands equipment such as AKTA and they understand the paperwork associated with purifying proteins that will be the active ingredient of a drug.
As for my recent failed attempt at employment, I can only hang my head. I will never possess every single skill required for a job. This too is a beer and pizza diet. If I've used an FPLC, was it AKTA or BioRad? It is perhaps the sound of my voice on the phone that sends the potential employer seeking a way out of the interview. Perhaps my previous pay was too high. Maybe I'm over qualified instead of under. Maybe they've found my blog. Ha!
Whatever the case may be, the Cargo Cult Scientist will forever refer to this lack of equipment experience as an AKTA issue. If you're a photographer and they tell you that you don't have enough Bronica experience (you use a Hasselblad) you have been AKTA-vated. If you can type 100 words a minute, you still must have experience typing form 10WZ4 from Corporation X. Getting a job means being AKTA-vated into a new system. Do you have what it takes?

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