An Interview with Biology Lab Technician Chrysa Malosh

I met today's bitch in 2014 when I attended my first TWCP Monday Night Ladies Ride. Chrysa was the ride leader on that fateful, kind of a disaster, first ride. We got chased by dogs, got lost, couldn't get cell service, it got dark, and none of us had lights. Chrysa kept a cool head and got us back to our cars safe and sound. I was so impressed by her, on the drive home I thought, "I'm going to make her be my friend." And I did!

The same qualities that make Chrysa a great cycling coach, make her a great friend. Chrysa spent the first part of her career working as a drug discovery chemist - information she mistakenly shared with me while I was binge-watching Breaking Bad. Chrysa is one of my favorite people, and not just because she answered my one million questions about mobile meth labs. She is kind, patient, funny, and suuuuuper interesting to talk to. Meet today's bitch, Chrysa Malosh!

What is your job title and where do you work?

I'm a Biology Laboratory Technician at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, TN. I manage all of the biology labs and some of the chemistry labs at the four different campuses. I am a professional cat herder, logistics and efficiency expert, accountant, and fixer of all manner of problems from “why does it smell like skunk in here” to “this experiment isn’t working”. 

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I had almost failed Organic Chemistry during my sophomore year. I went back over break to work with my professor to learn what I was missing, and then spent the summer doing research. Organic was the first course I really had to work at to understand. Once I figured out how it worked, I fell in love with the simplicity behind flowing electrons. I spent the following two summers doing undergraduate research and working on two different grants that involved science education. One was a grant to help develop laboratory exercises for K-12 teachers, while the other was to develop a course to help train first responders within the Army National Guard to deal with chemical, biological and nuclear attacks.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I love solving problems, so research was a no-brainer. Weeks go by where nothing seems to work, you hit a dead end and then wham, you figure out the problem. The implications of finding that solution can be inspiring. I spent the first eight years of my career as a drug discovery chemist. I worked on projects that dealt with finding treatments for conditions that so far are not available. It was really rewarding. I also like to help people and realized this when I started teaching. While working on those two grant projects, I really liked figuring out ways to help the students learn, understand the material, and apply it to their jobs. I got to see the difference I could make in other people’s lives. 

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

I graduated with a Masters of Science in Biological Chemistry in 2006 and spent eight years in the drug discovery field. Due to downsizing and funding issues I moved from one company to another and ended up in Nashville. I bought a house, got married and decided I wanted to stay in one city for more than four years. I spent a year teaching as an adjunct professor when this full time position opened up. With my science background and organizational skills, or as I like to refer to them as OCD qualities, it seemed a good fit for me while I tried to figure out a new career. I had decided that I was done with research and wanted to transition to a more stable career.

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

Never give up because the consolation prize isn’t worth all the effort you already put in.  

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

Not so much a failure as it was a change of attitude. In my current job I’ve met a lot of people who have struggles going on in their own lives that I’ve never had to deal with or relate to. I used to be a very black and white person. I’ve learned there is way more gray and I’ve adapted to accommodate it.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

I know I should say something that doesn’t include work, but honestly I would try to get more work done. I’d also take an extra slap at the snooze button and sneak in another 30 minutes in bed. I love to sleep but never have time to do it. 

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

My greatest success actually works alongside me. Last fall I got a new student worker. A nice young woman who is bright and energetic. When she started last year she was very quiet and waited for me to give her detailed instructions and tasks. This past summer she was hired on as a temporary employee to assist when we lost some other personnel. I was traveling to another location where an emergency broke out. I asked her to set up some computers for exams later that night and headed out for the day. A couple hours later I called her to ask how the computer setup went. She responded that one of them did not work properly and that she then thought, “What would Miss Chrysa do?”. She went over to IT, found someone who could fix it and got it fixed. I was so proud. Instead of calling me to ask what to do, she showed initiative and solved the problem on her own.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

OverDrive so I can listen to a book on the drive into work. I have a tad bit of road rage and I find that “reading” helps take my mind off all the other drivers. As traffic does what it will do, I get to find out what happens next in the story. 

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

My work day blurs into my after work day since I started a cycling club for faculty, staff, and students at the college. Most of our riders didn’t own a bike or consistently exercise when I started leading rides two years ago. Check out these folks now! New riders for this year alongside seasoned veterans. Cycling is my decompression followed by a long hot bath with a book and my cat, Homeless. He likes to hop up onto the side of the tub and hang out with me.

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

The hardest thing starts with trying to give everyone what they want. There is no way to get everyone what they want so there has to be some compromise, yet everyone dislikes compromise. So I have to figure out how to formulate these compromises with the bigger picture in mind and present them so they don’t look like compromises.   

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

A picture is worth a thousand words. (Insert the picture of me blowing something up.) 

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

Favorite TV show has honestly taken the most time to narrow down. I think I am going to go with two series. One that has ended, Revenge and a current one, Frankie and Grace. I am completely addicted to edamame hummus. I eat it straight out of the container with a spoon. Why dilute the flavor with something so mundane as a cracker or chip? 

All photos courtesy of Chrysa Malosh

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Priest, Kira Schlesinger!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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Thrifting List for Fall

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