Meet Our Experts

We are excited to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the careers and mindsets of some of our epigenetics experts. Our experts are solving complex challenges, navigating evolving research opportunities in epigenetics, and pushing the field forward.

Make sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to continue meeting our team of experts that are unraveling the epigenome.

Rwik Sen headshot

Rwik Sen
Field Applications Scientist

Read Rwik's Interview

Active Motif: What were you doing before joining the Active Motif team?
Rwik Sen: I was undergoing postdoctoral training at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, studying how epigenetics impacts development and birth defects.

AM: What are your favorite things about working at Active Motif?
RS: Cutting-edge epigenetics research, collaborations with academia and pharma, great teamwork, diverse opportunities for learning and growth, work-life balance, appreciation, support, and being valued.

AM: What interests you the most about epigenetics?
RS: The epigenetic basis of development and disease. To discover how epigenetic modifications orchestrate the temporal and spatial regulation of cell fate and large numbers of genes is fascinating! I am passionate about understanding how epigenetics regulates development and gene expression, and how mechanisms become dysregulated during disease. Epigenetic regulations can appear at the level of chromatin and DNA modifications, non-coding RNA, and proteins/prions, which adds multiple veils of mystery.

AM: What do you think is the hottest area of epigenetics research right now?
RS: There are several hot areas right now, but one that immediately comes to mind is CRISPR-based targeted editing of epigenetic modifications at individual chromatin loci to study the impact of those modifications in cellular function and behavior. Another hot area is novel RNA and DNA modifications caused by epigenetic factors and the development of single-cell methods to study epigenetics at high-resolution/sensitivity. A variety of epigenetic signatures beyond the well-known DNA methylation and histone modifications are exciting to explore.

AM: What do you think will be the next significant discovery in the epigenetics field?
RS: I believe that the next big discoveries will encompass a deeper understanding of the epigenetics basis of development, disease, and aging. The role of non-coding RNA in chromatin structure and technology to monitor how epigenetic factors regulate such structural dynamics at single-cell resolution will be another significant area. Integrated multiomics high-throughput approaches are extremely popular.

AM: In your career so far, what would you say is the best advice you have received?
RS: Mentorship! Having multiple mentors with overlapping and complementary expertise, both inside and outside of work/study, is extremely beneficial and crucial to success. Work with your mentors on setting and achieving short and long-term goals, and be a mentor when an opportunity arises.

AM: What advice would you give to someone interested in making the transition from academia to biotech?
RS: Transition from academia to the biotech industry can be seamless as long as you adapt and apply your skillsets in a dynamic environment, are receptive to learning, and are open to teamwork. Skills that we learn in academia are transferable.

The essential characteristics of academic research have corresponding counterparts in biotech which we may not realize. For example, the following components apply to scientists regardless of academia or industry – research conceptualization and benchwork, obtaining funding, data documentation, teamwork, meeting deadlines, building collaborations, peer-reviewed publications, presentations – internal and conferences, and mentor-mentee dynamics, being up-to-date with current research, etc. You just need to apply that template to an industrial setting, during which you will learn a lot of cool new things!

AM: When is the right time to start preparing for the transition?
RS: Since your academic skills are transferable, you have already prepared yourself from day one of your academic career; you only need to label and package it when applying for industrial positions. Remember that industrial applications require a resume versus a CV. The presentation you give to your prospective employers and the interview questions will significantly vary between academia and industry. But, on both occasions, you need to build a concrete case as to why you are the best candidate, what interests you about the organization, what unique skills you bring, and what your visions are regarding contributions to the organization and your personal development – short and long terms. Start networking and browsing job ads as early as possible.

AM: What has been challenging/unexpected pre- and post-transition?
RS: Unlike pharmaceutical or other biotech companies, epigenetics is still an evolving field. Although, as a Molecular Biologist in general, my skills could have matched with positions in different companies, I have always wanted to be part of an organization whose passion for epigenetics overlaps with mine and where scientific research is of primary importance. Hence, finding an organization within your niche of specialization can be challenging during the pre-transition phase.

Another area of learning is the understanding of your colleagues' roles and how the organizational machinery works which may differ even if you have worked with collaborators in academia. This is mainly because we are used to working with an extremely limited number of people in similar roles in academia, but in the industry, your colleagues and collaborators can have significantly separate roles. These were some challenges during post-transition. However, biotech gives you a fresh perspective and the opportunity to work with and communicate with large groups of people every day and constantly communicate with customers.

So, the sooner you understand the expectations from your colleagues and customers in their respective roles and the areas you need to improve in, the better. However, with great supervisors, mentors, and colleagues, you can overcome this challenge easily.

AM: When the lab coat comes off, what do you like to do (outside of work)?
RS: I love to explore San Diego and its surroundings! The weather is excellent, and the outdoor options are endless – nature walks, the ocean, downtown, local destinations, farmers and artist markets, restaurants – to nurture my interests in traveling, reading, food, and dancing.

AM: Any concluding thoughts, comments, words of wisdom that you would like to share?
RS: Ask questions! I often hear from experts that the only question that is "silly" is the one that you do not ask. So be curious and open to learning, which is a mutual process because we are all teachers and students at the workplace. And do not forget to be excited to navigate unexplored territory outside of your comfort zone, embrace opportunities, and be respectful towards each other!

Jesse Lopez headshot

Jesse Lopez
Services Research Scientist

Read Jesse's Interview

Active Motif: Hi Jesse! Welcome to our “Meet Our Experts” series, and thanks for being the first Active Motif expert to participate. Please start by telling us what you do at Active Motif, in your own words.
Jesse Lopez: Thanks for the invitation, happy to be here! I’m a scientist on the Epigenetic Services team. I work on a number of other services, but my main work focuses on our single-cell ATAC-Seq and bulk ATAC-Seq services. I also work on improving our existing services as well as developing new ones.

AM: How long have you been working at Active Motif?
JL: I just had my 1-year anniversary, but so much has happened in the past year that it feels much longer.

AM: What were you doing before you joined Active Motif?
JL: I was a grad student at UC Davis, co-mentored by the LaSalle and Segal labs. My background is in the epigenomics of neurodevelopmental disease and the development of targeted epigenetic modifiers.

AM: What surprised you the most thus far working at Active Motif?
JL: It’s a really tight knit company and everyone really works well together. I used a lot of antibodies and kits from Active Motif prior to joining so I knew that they had really good products, but I was surprised about all of the different areas of research that are ongoing. The output from R&D and Manufacturing is quite incredible.

AM: What are you up to when the lab coat gets hung up? 
JL: I enjoy getting lost in nature and often take my dog for hikes. I’ve really loved my move to North County since the area has so much to offer.

I have also been developing art techniques – mostly charcoal and pastels – to fuel my creativity, which I think is an underappreciated aspect of science as well.

AM: Why epigenetics?
JL: I think it started in high school with the general idea that genetics had a link to health and disease. Following that interest, in college I was exposed to molecular genetic mechanisms of regulation and I developed this realization that DNA is overrated.

I began to feel that there is a massive amount of information hidden in the multiple layers of epigenetic regulation that can inform us on development, health, disease progression, and so much more. With the NGS technology advancements in the last 10 or so years and the omics explosion, these layers have really taken center stage.

DNA is overrated. There is a massive amount of information hidden in the multiple layers of epigenetic regulation that can inform us on development, health, disease progression, and so much more.

- Jesse Lopez on why epigenetics is so fascinating

AM: What do you feel is the hottest area of epigenetics research right now; any next big discoveries you are excited about?
JL: Epigenetics spans so many fields, but, since my personal interests are in human health and disease, I would say that the integration of epigenetics in pharmaceutical development is massive, especially as we make the push toward precision medicine.

More specifically, the development of epigenetic modifiers as therapeutic agents themselves could be promising, particularly as an alternative to direct gene editing.

AM: What is the best advice you have received in your career so far?
JL: Don’t be afraid to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. We don’t always know where our path will take us – or even what paths may appear – but you shouldn’t pass up a good opportunity that is right in front of you because of the unknown.

AM: What advice do you have for anyone looking to make the transition from academia to the biotech industry?
JL: Be open. There are so many fields in biotech that you never learn of while in academia and you can find that you truly enjoy something you would have never expected. More often than not, the skills you develop in academia will translate to almost any field in biotech as long as you are open to the switch.

AM: Finally, let’s end with a fun question: what’s your favorite #AMBandTee?
JL: A lot of my grad school thesis was focused on DNA methylation, so I am quite partial to the Run 5-mC shirt.

Nate Chapin headshot

Nate Chapin
Senior Research Associate

Read Nate's Interview

Active Motif: Hi Nate! Thanks for helping us share a glimpse behind the scenes at Active Motif with our “Meet Our Experts” series. You played a key role in the development of our ATAC-Seq Kit and the final development of PIXUL™, our multi-sample sonicator that is a game changer in epigenetics research.

Reaching this point in your science career did not happen overnight, and your views on the future of epigenetics, including your background and insights can help inspire the science community. Please start by telling us what you do at Active Motif, in your own words.

Nate Chapin: I am a Research Associate II on the R&D team and my role is to develop novel next-generation sequencing-based epigenetic assays and to support the conversion of established epigenetic assays to a commercial format. The kits we make are intended to remove the onus of assay optimization, reagent production, and quality control from researchers, allowing scientists to instead focus on applying these techniques to obtain the answers they’re after.

AM: How long have you been working at Active Motif?

NC: I’ve been at Active Motif close to three years now, and recently received a promotion that gave me more responsibilities within my team.

AM: What were you doing before you joined Active Motif?

NC: Before I joined the team here at Active Motif, I was working on my Master’s Degree in Bioengineering at UCSD. We were studying the interaction between nucleoid accessibility, architecture, and gene expression in bacteria.

AM: What surprised you the most thus far working at Active Motif?

NC: I always think of us as a company that develops epigenetic assays, since that’s what my group spends our time doing, but whenever I take the time to pick my head up I’m always impressed by the variety of work we have going on here.

AM: What are you up to when the lab coat gets hung up?

NC: I’ve been a soccer player for a long time, and still play pretty regularly. Growing up in Upstate New York, we didn’t have quite the same weather we do here in San Diego, so I also try to spend a lot of time outdoors, both hiking and biking.

Beach cleaning

AM: Why epigenetics?

NC: Genetic variation is extremely important and has a lot to teach us about biological systems, but it’s now understood that the majority of genetic effects are strongly modulated by environmental factors, with that interplay generally manifesting itself in epigenetic changes.

For that reason, a lot of practical problems in biology and medicine involve epigenetic mechanisms. What I find exciting about all this is the implication that epigenetics similarly provides a route to better solutions – more effective therapies, more accurate diagnostics, and more efficient bioproduction systems.

Genetic variation is extremely important and has a lot to teach us about biological systems, but it’s now understood that the majority of genetic effects are strongly modulated by environmental factors, with that interplay generally manifesting itself in epigenetic changes.

- Nate Chapin on why he studies epigenetics

AM: What do you feel is the hottest area of epigenetics research right now; any next big discoveries you are excited about?

NC: What’s really exciting to me is that experimental methods and bioinformatic tools are reaching a point where it’s possible to construct a near-comprehensive biomolecular profile of cellular phenotype, and moreover to leverage those profiles, for example in large-scale comparative analyses, to gain insight at a rate that significantly outpaces what’s been possible in the past.

AM: What is the best advice you have received in your career so far?

NC: The postdoctoral fellow who mentored me during my graduate program strongly emphasized that you need to understand your tools before you can apply them properly. This applies to biochemical reagents, instruments, or pieces of software. It’s pretty common sense, but as someone who focuses on the technical aspects of next-generation sequencing assays, that’s been tremendously valuable to me.

AM: If you could go back in time and give advice to your childhood self about working in the biotechnology industry, what would you say?

NC: In general, the pace of work is very fast and responsibilities are more distributed, so my advice would be to find ways to improve and convey your organizational and collaborative skills. I guess that’s just another way of saying that you need to learn to play well with others!

AM: Finally, let’s end with a fun question: What’s your favorite #AMBandtee?

NC: It’s got to be the AT/AC shirt. Science community! 🎶 We salute you 🎶

Baby Nate