As an Associate Scientist on Pfizer’s manufacturing science and technology team, Alyssa Gall ’19 helps ensure that the company’s pharmaceuticals, including their COVID-19 vaccine, are safe and effective. It’s important, detail-oriented work that requires high-level technical, problem-solving, and analytical skills –talents she honed during her time at Bryant University.
At a time when her work is more crucial to public health than ever, Gall is glad to devote her efforts to a worthy cause. “It can be long days sometimes,” she admits. “But it's also very rewarding to know that we're helping the general public and the whole world right now.”
The experience and education Gall, a Biology major, gained at Bryant helped prepare her for a career she considers a perfect fit. She enjoys the experimentation she gets to do in her job and the potential for discovery. “I love working in the analysis lab, and the work that I do here is so interesting and so much fun,” says Gall. “I almost think of my instruments as my science toys.”
Finding her path
It wasn’t always that way. When Gall was a child her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, which inspired her to work towards becoming a doctor. “Seeing what she went through made me want to help other people and, whether it was cancer or another disease, do my best to make sure they don’t suffer like she did,” says Gall.
“Having an education in business helped me ease my way from being a science student into a having a job in a large corporation."
Focused on her goal, she earned her Certified Nurse Assistant and Emergency Medical Technician licenses in high school and started college certain she was going to focus her studies in pre-med. An internship in Bryant’s labs the summer of her freshman year, however, led her to reconsider. “It changed my understanding of lab work and I found that I really enjoyed research,” says Gall. She realized that working in the lab could be her path to helping people in a different way.
Over the next four years, Gall, who continued to work as a EMT when she wasn’t studying, received an extensive grounding in laboratory studies. Working as a lab technician provided her with an intimate understanding of equipment and procedures, and preparing lab sessions gave her a sense of what happened behind the scenes.
She also worked closely with Professor of Science and Technology Chris Reid, Ph.D. She assisted with his analysis of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and gained a hands-on understanding of what it meant to actually work as a scientist in a lab that has generated multiple patents. Being able to perform real research with real equipment was an “amazing” experience, says Gall, and helped her translate the skills she was learning into application.
Professor Reid, she says, was always there to answer her questions and provide guidance. “He was my favorite professor and is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” attests Gall. “He’s always there to help you but he pushes you to do your best at the same time.”
“I feel like if I went to a different school, l wouldn't have gotten the education I did, or had all of the experience with instrumentation and different lab techniques that I did.”
Skills for discovery
Her coursework aided her in other ways. The wide-ranging Bryant Biology curriculum gave her a broad understanding of a range of fields. “I had to take courses in calculus, chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, biology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, psychology, and forensics,” says Gall. “It was a tough course of study but very interesting and very rewarding.”
A minor in Business Administration introduced her to the fundamentals of industry and helped her understand how her work would be used in a broader context. “Having an education in business helped me ease my way from being a science student into a having a job in a large corporation,” Gall notes. It also aided her with data analysis. “I use Excel and all of the other programs that a lot of business corporations would use,” she points out.
The problem-solving and management projects she worked on, including IDEA, a three-day design thinking bootcamp, were as a useful precursor for life after college. “At work, everything is arranged into projects, so you have to know how to plan for and handle them,” explains Gall, who proudly notes that her team won the IDEA competition her year.
“This is where I wanted to be when I was 30 or 35 but I'm already there at 23. So, my dreams are a little bit bigger than they were five years ago.”
The strong relationships she forged with her professors and the personal attention she received also made a difference. Several of her professors became important mentors whom she still keeps in touch with. Both Lecturer Stephanie Mott, M.SC., and Science and Technology Department Chair Kirsten Hokeness, Ph.D., wrote recommendations for her for the Pfizer position.
“The one-on-one experience you have with your professors as a Bryant Biology student is really important,” says Gall. “I feel like if I went to a different school, l wouldn't have gotten the education I did, or had all of the experience with instrumentation and different lab techniques that I did” she says.
“When you love what you do as much as I do, it doesn’t even feel like work.”
Reflecting back on her time at Bryant, Gall advises students to think for themselves and take the time to carefully consider their path. “Make sure you feel comfortable in your skin,” she says. “And make sure that you’re doing what you want – if you don’t like it, switch.”
As for Gall herself, she is making her own plans and considering her future. She’s preparing to go back to school for a MA in laboratory science and then a Ph.D. and is even considering one day applying to NASA – a childhood dream. “This is where I wanted to be when I was 30 or 35 but I'm already there at 23,” notes Gall. “So, my dreams are a little bit bigger than they were five years ago.”
Right now, though, she couldn’t be happier with her job at Pfizer and the role she plays in keeping others healthy. “I wake up every morning happy to go to work,” she says. “When you love what you do as much as I do, it doesn’t even feel like work.”