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Brain Gain: Biotech Jobs Attract, Keep Talent in WV

July 2, 2014
Peggi Angel, Ph.D, Protea Biosciences

Peggi Angel, Ph.D, Protea Biosciences

How’s this for a great example of West Virginia “brain gain”? Peggi Angel, who has a Ph. D. in quantitative proteomics from the University of Georgia, left her position at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Mass Spectrometry Research Center to join Protea Biosciences as Senior Scientist, LAESI Mass Spectrometry Imaging, in Morgantown earlier this year!

Growing up in Georgia, she knew she wanted to help people and originally thought she might become a physician. Chemistry research work during college, and the ability to analyze the differences in disease states, fascinated her and led her to a career in mass spectrometry.

“My work revolves around identifying certain molecules in tissue,” Angel said. “I use mass spectrometry imaging to make pictures of molecular patterns in tissue biopsies.” As an example, I’ve done studies to determine which molecules make heart valves malfunction, and have identified certain molecules that may be necessary to help heart valves function properly.”

“This field requires communication across various scientific disciplines,” she said. “It takes a team of scientists skilled in different areas to produce the best results, and I believe that kind of work is happening at Protea. As a matter of fact, I’m not aware of any other company offering mass spectrometry as a service to the degree we are.”

Angel believes scientific research and development is critical to building the capacity – both human and resource-based – for technology based entrepreneurial growth. As part of that, she feels strongly that we must view STEM as an investment in our future.

“Nurturing curiosity is critical to motivating more young people to get into the STEM fields,” Angel said. “Those with a natural interest to understand how things work are perfectly suited to the various fields of science.”

Her advice to those pursuing a science-based career was to “follow your passion, and that, ultimately, will lead you to success”.

She believes that the biotech industry is a nucleating force to attract other biotech companies, as the industry requires a large support system to sustain it. “This industry,” she said, “creates jobs”.

Married and with a deep appreciation for outdoor recreation, she and her husband have found West Virginia very welcoming, she said. When asked where she thought she might be living/working if not at Protea, her answer was, “possibly a biotech company in the Boston area”.

While it comes as no surprise, talent goes where the opportunities are, and West Virginia, with companies like Protea and others across the state are luring a top notch workforce from both within and outside our borders.