At the 2017 Maine Science Festival (MSF), Westbrook-based IDEXX Laboratories (a global provider of animal health diagnostics with a mission to enhance the well-being of pets, people, and livestock and an MSF Sponsor and Partner) gave festival goers an inside look at their work, through presentations provided by two of their scientists – Dave Levine and Sarah Millington. We wanted to share a little more about Dave and Sarah, and so we asked them to share some of their story with us, after we had a few questions about IDEXX answered.
MSF: What does IDEXX Laboratories do and where in Maine do you serve?
IDEXX: IDEXX is a global provider of animal health diagnostics with a mission to enhance the well-being of pets, people, and livestock. We employ more than 7,000 people globally, nearly 2,500 of whom are located right in Westbrook.
MSF: How is science part of what IDEXX does?
IDEXX: To stay at the leading edge of veterinary medicine, we need to be wholeheartedly committed to innovation and to attracting employees with science and technology backgrounds. From staff veterinarians who are medical experts on the science of animal health, to engineers who develop product prototypes, to software developers who maintain cloud-based customer-facing applications, to many other roles, we rely on our employees’ science and technology skills every day.
Dave Levine and Sarah Millington spoke at MSF, and we connected with them to learn more about their roles at IDEXX.
MSF: What do you do at IDEXX?
Dave: I am a senior process engineer for SNAP automation. (SNAP tests are IDEXX’s ‘pet side’ or ‘point-of-care’ tests that deliver a quick result to the veterinarian.) I deal with all validations for new products or processes for the high volume automated assembly equipment.
Sarah: I am an associate scientist specializing in cell and tissue culture production and purification.
MSF: What is your educational background?
Dave: I have a BS in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from WPI and a MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Walden University. I received my Master’s while working full time at IDEXX.
Sarah: I have an Associate’s Degree with a focus on Biotechnology and am currently finishing a BS in Environmental Science.
MSF: You recently presented at the Maine Science Festival, Dave as part of the Made in Maine forum and Sarah as one of our 5 Minute Genius presenters, and you both to people who aren’t necessarily in a scientific field. Was it difficult to talk about your work without using science “jargon?”
Dave: I provide a lot of tours of the SNAP production area, so I am used to speaking to people who aren’t familiar with what we do. Most of the people I show around have no technical background in manufacturing (veterinarians, students, investors, etc.) so finding a way to communicate in terms that everyone clearly understands is important.
Sarah: At first it seemed challenging, but I realized it’s very easy to speak and make a connection with people at any level about something that I love and am passionate about.
MSF: Why did you choose to pursue your career path?
Dave: My career path really chose me. I started out as a Computer Science major but changed to Manufacturing Engineering because I enjoyed the classes. I took classes in many different disciplines: electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, statistics, management, manufacturing, etc. When I graduated, I was hired by Lockheed Martin into their rotational leadership development program. That experience let me figure out what I liked, which turned out to be processes and how to improve how manufacturing systems run.
Sarah: When I’m learning or experiencing something new, I am generally enthusiastic. I originally chose Biotechnology because I connected with it and the feeling of constantly learning, evolving, and innovating that came with it. I also like it because it covers a broad range of fields and topics, and focuses on an effort for constant improvement and helping people, places, and things.
MSF: What do you like most about your job?
Dave: I deal with a lot of different technical issues, which gives me a chance to problem solve. Sometimes this means dealing with an emergency on the manufacturing floor, and other times it’s through longer term projects where I design, perform, analyze, and report on different experiments. I also work with a great group of people, which allows me to have fun.
Sarah: That’s a tough question to answer. I love what I do, and that what I do at my job helps someone or something else. Even on my hardest days, I know that what I’m doing will help someone else to have a better day.
MSF: If you could only tell Mainers one interesting thing about IDEXX, what would it be?
Dave: Manufacturing still lives in Maine and it’s being led by IDEXX. IDEXX is one of the largest companies based in Maine, and is part of the S&P 500 stock index.
Sarah: IDEXX is driven to support the well-being of its employees and local communities. The company cares so much about their people, and is a very bright, happy work environment.