The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Division of Student Services

Sandy Blake Boles

Class year: 1990
Major: Biology
Company/organization: State of Florida Department of Agriculture
Job title: Biologist
Company URL:

I would love to connect with students. In addition or instead of attending the Schmooze, I am available for one:one meetings during the weekend. Drop me an email and we'll arrange a time to meet. I arrive on Thursday.

How did you get where you are? (e.g., education, brief work history, mentors)

I have a master's degree in Biological Oceanography, but spent 15 years working as a technician in various academic labs - mostly in systematic botany. During this time I built a "toolbox" of skills that enhanced my employability as we made frequent moves for my husband's job.

My current job is with a state regulatory agency, testing fruit trees for diseases which threaten the Florida citrus industry. Working in a government laboratory setting took a bit of adjustment after so many years in academic labs. The 8-5 work day is strictly adhered to, and the supervision hierarchy is taken very seriously. In leaving the university, I sacrificed the daily collegial interactions with faculty and graduate students that made those jobs so challenging and pleasurable. I also lost most of the autonomy I had enjoyed - i.e. to work flexible hours and determine the flow of my work day. In exchange I got a measure of job security (no more dependency on grant funds year-to-year), and I have no work-related obligations outside of the 8-5 work day. It's a definite trade-off.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you'd like to pass on to current Reed students?

It pays to gather skills as you go through life, and to keep a mental checklist of those skills, no matter how trivial they may seem. You never know when your ability to wield a hammer (or a pipetter), or to write a cogent paragraph will be just what a prospective employer is looking for.

Try to avoid feeling that any particular task is beneath you. Respecting the work that you do (and that the person beside you does), goes a long way towards creating a happy work environment.

Ambition for its own sake can be counterproductive. Try to figure out what you're good at. If you have a passion, but all means pursue it, but if you find that you don't (or your passion is not one that will lead specifically to gainful employment), use the strengths and skills that you have to do work that brings you satisfaction.

In what ways you think you can help Reed students?

I can discuss the pros and cons of doing technician work in academic and government lab settings. I can address the implications of choosing technician work as a long-term career choice, versus pursuing doctoral research and an eventual professor/PI position.

What else should students know about you? (e.g., volunteer engagement, avocations, interests)

I am a past president of the Reed College Alumni Association, and have been volunteering with the college in some capacity or another for over 15 years.