Inside Inscripta: Steven Alvarez, Systems Integration

We continue to introduce Scripters who recently joined the company and today’s guest is Steven Alvarez, Scientist on the Systems Integration team. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Steven got his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from UC Berkeley and joined Inscripta in September 2020.

What’s your role at Inscripta?

I work as a Scientist on the Systems Integration team. We work at the interface between the different groups – like R&D, enzyme engineering, microbiology, manufacturing, software – and make sure that all the components and protocols developed by the different teams work together. It’s a very multidisciplinary team.

What brought you to the company?

I finished graduated last year during the pandemic and began a period of soul searching to consider what my next chapter would be. Having a background in materials sciences, engineering, and biophysics, it was not obvious to me where my somewhat unusual background would fit best in the industry. I knew I was excited about the field of genome editing, so I began looking for job opportunities where I could be more immersed in the field while contributing my multidisciplinary background. I learned about Inscripta from an online search and really loved the mission of the company and the challenges they were tackling. The job description in Systems Integration seemed like a great fit, so I applied, and the rest is history.

How did you get into the genome-editing field?

Although my graduate work was not related to genome editing, I was exposed to it during my time at UC Berkeley. That was enough to spark my interest and recognize the potential in this field. Inscripta has been my first hands-on experience with genome editing and it has already been an amazing journey.

What’s the most exciting thing about moving from genome reading to genome writing?

Our ability to read genomes has provided so much insight already; but the ability to write genomes with precision and at scale is going to open so many areas of opportunity in biotechnology, medicine, research, agriculture, etc. So, I’m excited to work on developing technology that will help realize that potential.

If you could use genome engineering to address any challenge, what would you choose and why?

Challenges around healthcare are at the top of my mind. There are so many areas right now – for example, in cancer research – where genome engineering is already making a difference. For example, genome engineering is being used to develop cell-based therapies, discover new drug targets, and generate new model systems to study cancer biology. I am excited to see how genome engineering will transform cancer medicine in the future.

What did you do as a kid that you wish you could do more as an adult?

Play volleyball. I’m originally from Puerto Rico, and it was a popular sport growing up. When I was 10 or 11 years old, I became obsessed with volleyball. I was playing pretty much every day – on school teams or outside of school. I would actually carry a volleyball with me everywhere I went. My friends even nicknamed me “Steven Ball”. Since I moved to the Bay Area in 2010, I’ve played at different intramurals here and there. It’s something that I love but don’t get to do that often anymore.

What’s your favorite vacation?

When I finished my undergrad, I went on a one-month trip to Europe. I toured 15 cities in 30 days, including London, Rome, Paris, and various cities in Italy, among others. It was life-changing to experience so many cultures, cuisines, and sites. These days, I prioritize most of my vacation time to visiting my family in Puerto Rico.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I want to highlight what I think is one of the most rewarding aspects of working at Inscripta. Not only do we get to do impactful work, but we do it working alongside talented and kind people. I genuinely like the people I work with. It adds even more to the already great experience of working here.