Interview with Steve Wong

September 15, 2020
Yasmina Ibsen

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?  

I grew up in Menlo Park, California, next door to the house that I’m living in right now and I went to UC Davis.  

What sparked your interest in science?  

Mostly my science teachers in grade school and high school. I always had teachers that were thrilled with what they were doing, surprisingly, and I liked that avenue.    

What would you say to a young person considering a career in science or specifically oncology?

I would say that it’s a great field to be in. Many of the health care research fields are great because they get you up out of bed in the morning knowing that you’re going to go mess with cancer. But if you want to go the scientific route, I would say get a PhD. You will need it to be competitive in this day and age in our field.

What is important to you personally? I.e.what things do you value most in life?

I value respect, which has to be earned, and I value integrity because in our business, that’s what we absolutely need when gathering our data. That level of integrity is fundamental.

What are some of the challenges you have faced either in your career or personally that you feel have helped you become the successful scientist and person you are?  

I would say not having a PhD. I don’t have one so it’s been a constant struggle to gain the respect that I feel I deserve. It’s been a struggle, but I think that working through the ranks has given me the opportunity of being a researcher at all different levels. From that type of experience, I’ve gotten a lot of work, just in my ability to translate the research to a higher level. Knowing how to do the studies is very important when you want to manage and schedule the people who run the studies. Knowing the nuts and bolts has helped me in a way without having the PhD. But again, there’s a ceiling that you’re constantly battling and the level of research and science that we are dealing with now, absolutely requires a higher level of education.

What did you think when you first saw Studylog?

Well, I was using other software at the time and I hoped that it would be better because the software had its problems. Jeff Kumer was the one who brought it to me. We were both at a this software's users meeting on 9/11 in Philadelphia when the planes hit the buildings, so we kind of cemented our friendship there. Whenever Jeff moved over to Studylog was when I switched over to Studylog. I think I’ve had about 15 years of experience with Studylog.

How has Studylog impacted you or your team? Has it saved you time?

Yes I think Studylog has saved us a lot of time. One of the biggest time sinks for fast paced researchers is keeping up with your notebook.  Exemplified by notebook parties, where they do everything from feeding you pizza to try and get you to sign off on your notebooks, and make those very legal notations that make your data valid. The easy part sometimes is just gathering all the data. What to do with it later between analysis and just noting what has happened is the hard part. Studylog really captures all of that because it’s a working tool that we use in the lab right next to our scalpels, forceps, and animals. It’s there all the time and it’s where we capture our data. Instead of having to transfer all of our data to a notebook, Studylog can potentially, just slide right into an electronic notebook or you can maintain the database as your notation. It’s time-stamped and data stamped and I think, to a certain level amenable to GLP-like data capture. Studylog has made the data capture easier. The data capture through calipers, and body weight scales, and chips when they use them has made those types of procedures a lot faster, saving time. I’ve used Studylog at five places (sic: companies) and we installed it in four of them.

As we are talking, I have a screen up where I do the post-data capture, not necessarily on the data, but the studies. The metrics for how many studies we’ve done this year, how many of them were PK studies, how the numbers floated up and down through COVID, when we were shut down or slowed down.  We continued to run studies because we had purpose-bred animals that we felt were important enough to keep on and not waste. So using Studylog, we can actually measure what we’ve accomplished through the COVID pandemic timeline. I understand that you could also use it as a calendar system, but our RAs tend to run their own studies, so they’re less likely to follow a calendar because they already know what they’re going to do. And some of the dosing things in this situation, we don’t use as much. Some places I’ve used it more consistently, but each place has a different tone to it on how they use Studylog. At one place I worked, they used it simply to capture data. They didn’t use it for anything else, not even analysis, but when I came on, the software became the much more comprehensive data capture tool that it is.

What was the most significant challenge that you faced at one place that Studylog was able to solve?

I think it was the data capture for ELN. It usually is. Once the researchers understand that what they put into it is what they get out of it and they realize the possibility of it replacing a lab notebook. Then they begin to understand and when they see the reports that Studylog can put out that show how many studies were done in this cell line with this compound, etc. That’s when the power of Studylog really starts to come out. But it’s an uphill battle at first because like I said, four out of five you’re just installing a whole new system. One or two of those were very young companies, so it was good to be in on the ground floor.

What would you say to people who prefer to use Excel because it is free?

You get what you pay for. It always is kind of a sticker shock. People go, “God, that’s so expensive.” But then I think when you look at other software that are either using the chemistry department or biology, or even Microsoft Word, and things like that. The price is not that much. Of course, it’s way more than Excel, which you’ve already paid for. But for the capabilities, people either understand what it’s worth or you have to prove it to them, show it to them. Having brought it to four different places, I’ve been through those drills of how to justify it and Eric has always been great to work with. Usually, when you start with a small company, there’s not a lot of money anyway, and he’s done a lot to help the little guys out. I also hope that I’ve helped get Studylog established in many other different places, not just companies that I’ve worked.

What is your favorite Studylog feature?

I like the graphing and the randomization features. Now they even have more elegant ones that I haven’t randomized in a while, but now we’re using those as well. My other favorite Studylog feature is the offsites. Those were epically entertaining – informative as well.

What do you do for fun when you’re not curing cancer?

When I’m not playing with Studylog? I like archery. I do a lot of road riding, mountain biking in the area, and woodworking. We have a lot of animals in the house, so a lot of tending with the animals. I painted the chicken coop this weekend. That was fun.