Research models

Jennie Nelson

Production Manager


+ Project management
+ Team support
+ Animal welfare
+ Biosecurity
+ Budgeting

What are your responsibilities at Envigo?

I’m a production manager responsible for two isolator facilities in Indianapolis and a production warehouse in Greenfield. A smaller percentage of Envigo animals are immune deficient. They are the ones who can’t be in direct contact with people, even if the people have gone through a shower and everything is sterile. They’re housed in what’s called an isolator — positive pressure units with sleeves. The animals are never exposed to us directly and all the work is done through gloves. I make sure everyone is adhering to regulatory and industry standards and our written instructions. I also make sure everyone has what they need to do their jobs and that we’re meeting our budget goals and production plans.

What inspired you to pursue a career in science?

I lost my mom to cancer when I was 20 years old. Working with the immune deficient animals primarily for oncology research, to me, is a no-brainer. That’s why I come to work every day. I originally wanted to go to medical school. I’ve always loved the medical field, but didn’t have another eight years of school in me. So, I picked medical social work. I had just gotten my master’s degree and worked with hospice for a time, but wasn’t quite ready to be in the ‘real’ working world. I became an animal technician at Envigo back in 1998 at our site in New Jersey. I thought, ‘I love animals. I’ll work with animals for a couple years, then it’ll be really time to grow up.’

I absolutely fell in love with the job. I fell in love with the animals and what we did. I looked for social work jobs every now and then, but there was always a step up available at Envigo. I became a group leader after six months. I then became a supervisor. Then, the opportunity came to be a site manager running the facility and I figured, ‘Okay, I guess I’m supposed to be here.’ I never saw myself in management. It was never anything I ever wanted to do. But, I get to use my social work degree every single day. I’m working with and managing people. And, the way I view it, what we do is at the very back end of the medical field. It’s nothing medical, but it’s everything medical. I’ve always loved animals and I learn something new every day.

What are some of the key attributes of being successful in your role?

Definitely experience. It helps me relate to those I manage. I know exactly what it takes to do their job because I’ve done it. I’m not afraid to go in and clean cages with my team. I work side by side with them if they’re struggling. I’m not managing them from a book, I’m managing them from experience. I think that goes a very, very long way. If my people aren’t happy, they’re not going to produce good animals. I want them to love their job. If they don’t love their job, I don’t want them here because you’ve got to love the animals. You’ve got to absolutely love it to be here and that’s my goal for everyone on my team.

We’re not managing widgets, we’re managing people and animals. I don’t think that can be learned any other way — especially in this particular industry and company. It’s very, very unique. The first 90 days of training is intense. There’s so much to learn. It’s important for me to let new technicians know it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It will all come together. I remember being trained on these same things and thinking, ‘I will never get this. It’s so confusing.’ I thought I was fairly bright and there were some things I was just like, ‘there’s no way I’m going to remember this.’ I laugh at that now, but it’s a good reminder to give people time and tell them to have patience with themselves. I try to be human with them.

What are the best parts of your job?

I absolutely love the people. I see these people probably more than my family. I also love growing people. I expect my leaders to grow people. I love watching that light bulb go off for a technician when all the work and the reasons for it come together for them. Seeing someone who worked at Walmart for 10 years, didn’t know anything about what we do, and now wants to make a career of it is everything to me. You do not need a degree to do this job, just a love for animals. Those animals are our future. Those animals are our kids’ futures, our grandkids’ futures and they are to be treated with the utmost respect no matter what you’re doing. When others get the importance of it all, it’s everything to me.

Which career achievements make you proud?

I love that we create potential for positive change. Even if you’re just cleaning a cage or putting a box together for a customer, that animal could be the next cure for cancer, heart disease, or COVID-19. There is something valuable in what we do every single day, no matter what it is. I may be doing a report, but I’m part of that next cure. We have a customer who takes more than 1,000 of our animals every single week. It’s really exciting what they do with these mice. There’s actually live cancer patients on the other end of this order. They’re injecting each person’s cancer cells into our mice. They’ll grow the same tumors, then test different drugs on these mice for personalized cancer treatment. It’s amazing that we have the ability to understand what drugs will work for a person’s tumor, and which drugs won’t. It’s so cool to actually be part of it and know there are people on the other side of this benefitting from our work. We’re saving lives.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of Envigo?

I am busy with my three kids. We do a lot swimming at home in the summer. Other than those things, I like to lie in bed with a cup of coffee, not do much of anything really and binge watch Netflix.

Please contact us if you have a question for Jennie or would like to learn more about our research models and services.