By: Nina Notman
“I developed an affinity for chemistry–pun intended–during high school,” says Brandon Presley. At a teacher’s suggestion, he participated in two paid internships funded by the ACS Project SEED (Summer Experiences for the Economically Disadvantaged) program for high school students. “This was my first introduction to a high-level research laboratory, and I developed relationships with some well-established scientist mentors,” he explains. “I decided that I wanted to go to college for chemistry after that.”
Presley majored in chemistry at Temple University in his hometown of Philadelphia. While there, he became an ACS Scholar. This program, aimed at underrepresented chemistry students of color, provides financial and mentoring support, Presley says.
After graduating in 2010, Presley joined the clinical and forensic toxicology laboratory at NMS Labs, a testing lab in Horsham, PA. While there, he started a part-time PhD with Susan Jansen-Varnum, an analytical chemistry professor at Temple. “I found a research project that was of interest to the company and NMS covered a significant portion of my graduate education,” Presley says.
For most of his PhD, Presley continued to work full-time. “Everything was done after hours or before hours,” he says. Then, in summer 2018, Presley left NMS to focus on completing his PhD. He defended his thesis in March 2020.
Two months before his defense, Presley joined the biotherapeutics analytical development team at Janssen’s site in Malvern, PA, as a separation scientist. “I develop, qualify and validate methods for biopharmaceuticals that are then transferred to the quality control laboratories for release and stability testing,” he says.
In July 2020, Presley launched Simple Science Tees, a t-shirt company with designs such as: I’d rather be in the lab. “I’m a science enthusiast and I thought this was a fun way to communicate with other scientists and to share my passion for science with the world,” he explains. “We've had a lot of demand; people seem to really love them.”
What's in your lab coat pocket?
An array of pens and markers.
What instrument in the lab can't you live without and why?
HPLC. It was the first instrument that I used in a research lab, and I still use it most days in my current role.
What's the best project you've worked on to date?
A recent project where I developed a method to separate components of a cancer therapy.
Who is your scientific hero?
Henry Louis Le Châtelier. I love Le Châtelier's principle because of its broad applicability across a lot of natural processes.
What is the best piece of career advice you've been given?
Develop a broad network across many specialties, including those outside of chemistry such as business.
What advice would you offer underrepresented students of color aiming for a chemistry career?
Believe in yourself, you have what it takes. Also, get around others that are willing to build you up and support you to find your purpose and achieve it.
What's the best part of your current job?
The collaboration amongst many groups to reach a common goal: to support global human health.
How do you like to relax?
I love nature walks and being near the water, especially creeks, streams, and Niagara Falls.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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