Holly Gates-Mayer, biosafety officer for Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S), is the new president-elect of the Front Range chapter of ABSA, a trade association dedicated to promoting biosafety and serving the needs of biosafety professionals.
FRaBSA is a recognized affiliate of the overarching American Biological Safety Association International (ABSA), which engages with organizations around the world to oversee the safety of biological research. The association is not limited to those in a university setting; it is made up of professionals who are involved in biological safety, including corporations that handle laboratory investigations, healthcare workers and companies that work on drug development.
As a biosafety officer for EH&S, Gates-Mayer is responsible for the management of the Biosafety program, which focuses on the safe and compliant use of recombinant and synthetic nucleic acids, human and animal cell lines, and infectious agents in research. Gates-Mayer will assume leadership and begin conducting official activities on behalf of FRaBSA this summer. She has been with both the regional and national organizations since she started in biosafety.
“We’re a pretty diverse bunch,” she said. “It’s not just safety officers like myself, but people who are connected to biosafety in a variety of ways. It’s great to get a lot of different insights.”
When the organization’s meetings became virtual due to the pandemic, Gates-Mayer noted the silver lining of gaining a broader reach across the United States and internationally. “Our local affiliate was able to touch people in a variety of locations,” she said. “Going virtual gave us an opportunity to connect with colleagues across the globe.”
The pool of resources across the organization is deep and has developed into an excellent forum to discuss challenges each regional affiliate is facing. Gates-Mayer says some of the more difficult decisions are critical, especially with regards to pathogens, select agents and toxins, and genetic manipulations, so it is reassuring to have so many experienced individuals involved.
In her new role, Gates-Mayer wants to focus on bringing more attention to science students who may consider biosafety as a career option. She says, “We can light a fire under students who are starting to contemplate, ‘What can I do with this science degree?’ This could be a viable option for them, where they get to interact with a really committed group of people in a meaningful way and still exercise that science piece they spent so much time learning.”
She sees FRaBSA as an extension of what she does at CU, as working with the organization encapsulates what she does at the university every day. “They go together seamlessly, and that doesn’t always happen, so I feel like I’m pretty lucky that I get to do this.”