Meet Kiumars Shahrokh
As a large organization, with nearly 5,000 employees, there is deeply embedded commitment in all of us to provide the highest level of quality patient care, while making sure we have a great working environment for everyone, and continuously striving to improve.
Kiumars (Kiu) Shahrokh is the technical director of mass spectrometry at ARUP Laboratories, a national nonprofit and academic reference laboratory at the forefront of diagnostic medicine.

When talking about his background, Kiu refers to himself as a non-traditional student. As an Iranian immigrant, he moved to the U.S. in 1985 and worked as a day laborer until he was able to get his mom and young brother out of Iran. After that, he went back to college with the intent to become a physical therapist. That route quickly had him falling into the world of science. After completing a post-baccalaureate fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, he set out for the University of Utah, where he completed his Ph.D. and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Human Toxicology. From there, Kiu ventured over to Covance Labs to work as an R&D scientist developing pre-clinical tests for FDA-related environments, before taking an opportunity to join ARUP Laboratories.

“As important as the pre-clinical space is for developing new treatments, it’s still one degree removed from directly impacting patient care,” said Kiu. “Being able to work at a national reference lab in a clinical environment was really attractive to me. At ARUP Laboratories, I’m that much closer to seeing and improving patient care. Overseeing such a sophisticated platform, I’m leading work that’s providing many people in need with the best testing we have available.”

On a day-to-day basis, Kiu and his team are faced with and drawn to highly complicated technical challenges—both in terms of developing new solutions and improving the robustness of current assays—to perform better in a production environment.

One unique aspect Kiu really appreciates about ARUP Laboratories, is the Five Pillars, which guides company culture and reflects the day-to-day application of the company’s core values, mission, and client commitment statements.
In recent years, one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced is the pandemic’s impact on the global supply chain, which has posed a massive disruption to daily operations. COVID-19 has also shined a light on the critical importance of maintaining the highest levels of quality and standards for testing. Through it all, Kiu credits key vendor partnerships, such as he has enjoyed with Phenomenex to help navigate daily operational challenges.
As a large organization, with nearly 5,000 employees, there is deeply embedded commitment in all of us to provide the highest level of quality patient care, while making sure we have a great working environment for everyone, and continuously striving to improve.
“Our lab has run into countless challenges over the years, during my time here I have come to recognize that no matter the gravity of the issue, strong internal and external  partnerships  are pivotal in successfully navigating diverse challenges,” said Kiu. “The customer support provided by Phenomenex is second to none. Because of our strong partnership and high level of trust, we’ve been able to overcome highly complex issues . There seem to be daily challenges impacting us all that we couldn’t have imagined two years ago. Working with the team at Phenomenex no one ever gets ego-invested; we just focus on fixing the problem, and I really enjoy that part of working with Phenomenex.”

For Kiu, it’s difficult to pinpoint a single moment that illustrates the impact of his work; rather, a collection of small moments tells the story of a mission-driven career, focused on caring for those in his community and beyond.

“On a local level and beyond, what we do matters,” said Kiu. “While our clients include hospitals throughout the U.S., one of our biggest clients is the University of Utah—and that’s where my family goes for their care, so it hits close to home.
Behind each sample that rolls through our door, there could be a parent experiencing sleepless nights wondering if they’ll see their kid grow up or not. It’s an intense but rewarding feeling to be able to deliver top-notch patient care. It's not the same as working directly with patients in a hospital, but as far as working in a lab, you'd have a hard time beating what we do here.”
When reflecting on his life and career, Kiu stresses an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and gratitude: “I started my life in the U.S. as a day laborer and have come an incredible way. As an immigrant, an important part of my American story, is being given the opportunity  to pull  myself up by my bootstraps. I am grateful for all the help I had along the way,  and the level of success that I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy today. I could never have imagined my life as it is now, twenty years ago. I’ve reached a point where my day-to-day job is focused on helping others. I get a lot out of that. The contrast between where I started and what I get to do every day makes life that much sweeter.”

Kiu offers advice for the next generation looking to break into the field: “You’re in school just once. Don’t drag your feet, work hard, study hard, and take advantage of any interdisciplinary opportunity you have to diversify your education—it will help greatly when you hit the workforce. Having a degree is one thing, but acquiring a diverse skill set, being able to collaboratively work across teams, communicate clearly, and overcome typical barriers and silos in the workplace makes you a more attractive candidate, a better team member, and a superior problem solver.”