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Lara Mangravite (far left), president of Sage Bionetworks, with colleagues Mike Kellen, Dan Webster, Stockard Simon, Kimyen Ladia and Allie Seroussi. (Sage Bionetworks Photo)

Scientists aren’t known for playing well with others. After all, their world is set up to reward individual accomplishments through journal publications, professorships and grants.

Lara Mangravite, president of Sage Bionetworks, is working to change that. Because the reality is that as science advances and big data spreads more widely, the go-it-alone model has its limits.

“[Researchers] need each other in a way they haven’t before to share samples and the infrastructure to handle that data and compute that data,” Mangravite said.

Sage Bionetworks is a Seattle-based nonprofit launched in 2009 that brings researchers and data together, advancing understanding about diseases and life sciences, hopefully speeding up the pace of discovery.

The organization facilitates crowd-sourced analysis of projects and data to find new ways to look at information. They’re building communities of researchers focused on difficult problems, including Alzheimer’s Disease. And they’re working on tools to help scientists better communicate with people participating in their studies.

A big motivator for teamwork is when scientists exhaust what they’re able to do on their own or small groups. Sometimes an entire area of research just stalls out, Mangravite says.

“In general, we see that researchers are open to trying these collaborative approaches when they are hitting against a difficult barrier in their research as a field,” Mangravite said. “That means they just can’t get past it using traditional means.”

With a bachelor’s degree in physics and a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical chemistry, Mangravite said she was frustrated by her colleagues’ reticence to collaborate and glad to find a solution in Sage Bionetworks.

Lara Mangravite, president of Sage Bionetworks. (Sage Bionetworks Photo)

A key to the group’s success was the decision to make it a nonprofit, Mangravite said.

The scientists “need to trust us,” she said. Two researchers might object to exchanging resources directly, but will share through a neutral, third-party system. “We play that role of not competing with researchers to do the research, but providing them a safe infrastructure where they can interact with each other.”

We caught up with Mangravite for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.

Current location: Seattle, Washington

Computer types: MacBook Pro

Mobile devices: iPhone 7. When I find a spare moment, I’ll get around to an upgrade.

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Evernote, AllTrails, and mPower, of course. We built mPower in 2015. It’s a mobile application to study Parkinson’s Disease that allows our participants to objectively collect data about their symptoms and treatments using the sensors in the smartphone. This helps us — and them — understand what it means to live with PD in the context of daily living outside of a clinical setting.

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? Our organization just stopped incubating — after nine years — and moved into our own brand new, freshly designed offices. I love it. Everyone has an office with a door that closes because we all value the importance of having a quiet place to think. But we also have lots of well-lit, open collaboration spaces so that we can also come together. My work can vary in task quite a bit from day to day. It’s wonderful to be able to choose the space that best serves each task.

Lara Mangravite’s workspace at Sage Bionetworks. (Sage Bionetworks Photo)

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? It’s easy to drift if you don’t constantly recalibrate your priorities.

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I occasionally lurk on Twitter or LinkedIn to learn what others are up to.

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? 18, which is 18 too many.

Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 38

How do you run meetings? Set agenda beforehand. Run through agenda. Set actions. Leave.

Everyday work uniform? I wore dresses to school every day starting in the second grade, but I can’t do that anymore. It’s too cold in the office and it’s too hard to run after my 4-year-old son if we stop at the playground on the way home. So it’s pants these days.

How do you make time for family? With focused intention. And often at the expense of exercise.

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Working up a sweat always clears the mind.

What are you listening to? Podcasts all the way. Currently, focused on NPR’s “How I Built This.”

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Nothing with any regularity.

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “Fascism” by Madeleine Albright and “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. As a scientist, I appreciate that government is a series of experiments. Some terrible and some beautiful.

Night owl or early riser? Recovering night owl.

Where do you get your best ideas? Talking out loud with a friend.

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? American chef Alice Waters.

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