Miranda Harmon-Smith is in her ninth year at JGI, having started as a technician on the Sanger sequencing line before moving up, first to supervisor, then ultimately joining the PMO in 2012. It was her second “real” job after three years doing brain tumor research at the University of California, San Francisco and following her move west. She grew up in Nescopeck, Penn., a small town with six streets, three stoplights and a population of more than 1,000. Her interest in science was whetted, she says, when she was a second grader and her mother started attending nursing school.
“As a child I wanted to cure cancer,” she says. With that goal in mind, she attended Syracuse University as a pre-med biology major and did internships in the Pathology Department at Veterans’ Hospital where she performed several autopsies and in a neuropharmacology lab studying neurotransmitter pathways in rat models exhibiting schizophrenia. However, when she graduated from college, she found that her interests had shifted away from medical school and into research.
While in college, she dated Andre, one of the defensive tackles on the football team. Though she worked at the football office, they didn’t meet until after football season ended. They dated throughout college and even after he graduated and moved to Southern California while she started graduate school. Everything changed when she came out to visit over her summer break in 1998 when they eloped. Now 15 years later, though they’ve discussed having a more “official” wedding they haven’t gotten around to it.
The long-distance couple eventually made their separate ways to Walnut Creek a year after their wedding. Miranda worked at UCSF for three years before joining the JGI as a Livermore Lab employee.
Away from the office, Miranda is actively involved in the science fairs at her daughters’ school, bringing the JGI’s Build-A-Berry kit. She juggles the girls’ activities with family time as well as finding time for her own interests. One of them is serving as secretary on the board of the John Marsh Historic Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the California pioneer’s house in Brentwood. Through their efforts, the Marsh Creek State Park became the latest state park earlier this year. “As a child on trips with my parents, we always visited places of historical significance. When I moved to California I didn’t find as many historical landmarks,” she says. “I’m really passionate about this because this house is in our backyard and it’s part of our history.”
Between the Trust’s fundraising efforts, scheduling time for the kids’ soccer, basketball and even archery sessions, spending time with her husband and even finding time to cook dinner every night, Miranda says time management is a priority. “I’m always trying to figure out a way for us to do it all,” she says. “It’s about being organized and multitasking.”