Andrea was clear about what she wanted to study since she was little. She is currently a DNA Analyst and Accreditation Officer for the FAFG Forensic Genetics Laboratory. Learn about her story in this edition of our “Staff Spotlight”.
Hello! I am a biochemist and a microbiologist. I love listening to music and discovering new sounds and artists. Also, appreciate and take photographs of old floors, such as those in the Historic Center (Zone 1, Guatemala), travel and go to museums. I am very curious and questioning. My favorite phrases are: “Let go” and “Omnia in bonum” (Everything is for the best).
Hello Andrea! Tell us, what is your position within the FAFG and what tasks do you perform?
In the Forensic Genetics Laboratory I have two positions. One is DNA Analyst II, which consists of extracting the genetic material from the samples that we have in the laboratory, both referential (from relatives) and skeletal, among other tasks. And the other is Accreditation Officer, which consists of maintaining the quality management system under the NTG / ISO / IEC 17025: 2017 standard implemented in the laboratory.
How did your interest in Biochemistry and Genetics come about?
At the age of 14, I already knew what I wanted to study. I wanted to study chemistry and microorganisms, because my parents were chemical engineers. That greatly influenced and stimulated my interest. Then, I entered university, it was a great effort from my parents and it is something for which I am deeply grateful to them. As my career progressed, I began to take some courses such as Molecular Biology, Genetics, among others.
“A great lesson from being in the laboratory and FAFG has given me is to believe in myself, to know that I am good at what I do and that I can give more.” – Andrea Cárcamo
Being an Accreditation Officer, could you share with us: how did the laboratory receive its accreditation?
When an institution seeks to work under any ISO quality standard, it is necessary to comply with their standard requirements. In our case, we applied to the accreditation under the ISO 17025 standard because we are a testing laboratory and this supports that the results obtained are reliable and that the personnel are competent.
Annually, we are evaluated to verify that we are complying with the requirements of this standard. In addition, we do internal self-assessments. Each accreditation cycle lasts four years, that means that every four years, in addition to the annual visits of the accrediting body, they evaluate us to re-accredit the laboratory. In November 2010, we were accredited under the NTG ISO / IEC 17025 version 2005 standard and now we are in the third cycle of accreditation, but with the 2017 version.
All this is an administrative task and it has been possible because everyone in the laboratory is committed to complying with the standards of the norm. Additionally, we have always had the unconditional support of the directors of the institution. This has been key in the implementation and maintenance of our quality system.
It is not the work of one person, it is teamwork.
What skills do you consider necessary for this job or which have helped you personally?
Be a structured, orderly and attentive person; because we work with many samples and they could easily be confused with each other. Apply critical thinking, ask questions, and being curious is important. Also read a lot, be up to date, and objective, without forgetting that you work with human remains.
How have you grown these past 11 years working at the FAFG?
On a personal level, a great lesson from being in the laboratory and FAFG has given me is to believe in myself, to know that I am good at what I do and that I can give more. It has also taught me, through my work, the commitment I have to my country. That is one of the greatest impacts FAFG has had in my life. Knowing that with our work we are helping our country in some way, to all the people who have no voice, who have no way to demand justice, and to be able to feel that one gives them back a piece of themselves with their loved one. It moves me to speak about it. We all have the responsibility to say what happened; when you talk about things, somehow you heal. People who want to find their family member and have him or her back need their story to be known, and this is something that the foundation is doing in many ways.
And on a professional level, continuing my education. That has allowed us to grow a lot professionally because we are constantly training, updating, learning, and we have an open mind to solve situations in many ways. Also, the great influence of the team I work because they are all people I admire and from whom I have learned a lot.
What lessons have you learned from this time of pandemic?
I learned that I am very resilient, and I dare to speak not only for myself, but for my team. We learned to adapt and to be in constant change. I also learned to value people, shared experiences, and friendship, both with my family and with my colleagues, who I consider more than coworkers, they are friends. They are like an extended family.
Any final message for the readers?
Believe in yourself. We can achieve our goals as long as we have them well-defined. By doing what we like and motivates us, we can contribute to having a better country.Let’s think, what am I doing for my country? Am I satisfied with what I am doing?
Finally, mention a few words with which you relate to the FAFG:
Innovation, motivation, growth and commitment.