Bryan Wilson’s first brush with engineering came at a young age.
“Some of my earliest memories involve science fairs,” said Wilson. “In fifth grade, I built a robot out of a 5-gallon bucket, some PVC piping for the arms and some wheels – all attached to two motors, and I won first place! The following year, my project was heating and cooling rubber balls and measuring how high they bounced when dropped from the same height. When I won $100 for that, I remember thinking how crazy it was that I was getting paid just to have fun.”
Wilson’s experimentation and curiosity didn’t stop there. “When I was 10, my parents enrolled me in drum lessons. While I thought this was just a genius move on their part to annoy my older siblings, it brought out the math geek in me. Learning to play drums and read music at a young age, with its fractions, order of operations and timing – was a preview of things I would eventually see in advanced mathematics courses.”
His engineering, problem-solving mindset also had him recruiting friends to help build a half-pipe in his Dade County backyard so they would have a place to skateboard.
By the time he was a high school senior, Wilson felt it was a natural decision to pursue engineering at the University of Florida UF).
“Growing up, I was fortunate to have some great teachers who recognized my affinity for math and science. I selected Chemical Engineering as my major, in part, because of an amazing high school advanced placement chemistry teacher who suggested it as a good career path,” said Wilson. “UF was the only school to have a really good drumline and a chemical engineering department, so the choice was easy for me.”
With everything seemingly in place, Wilson felt like he was on his way. But his first significant career pivot occurred before his career even started.
“I was in my final semester of undergrad at UF when 9/11 occurred. I remember walking into the room, basically oblivious to the world around me but also sensing something was wrong. Something was different,” he said.
As uncertainty lingered after the attacks, Wilson and his classmates began hearing rumors that several companies typically recruiting new engineering graduates would instead be rescinding offers. Soon, many of his friends lost their positions, and it was not long before graduation that Wilson also lost his job offer with a large global chemical manufacturing company.
“I had worked so hard for five years to become an engineer, and I thought my world was over,” said Wilson. “But it was also a real wake-up call to suddenly realize how little control we have over the things that often happen to us.”
That experience required a shift in career direction. “It took a couple of years to find that direction, I’ll admit. I toured the country playing drums in a band and also worked at a Gainesville company fabricating components for the high-vacuum and semiconductor industry,” said Wilson. “It was that job that opened up a whole new world of materials research and led me back to UF for a master’s in materials science and engineering.”
After finishing grad school, a few more unexpected twists and turns led Wilson to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and eventually attending law school part-time at The George Washington University while working at a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm. He found that his materials science background served him well when helping researchers and inventors navigate the technical aspects of intellectual property legal issues.
In 2014, Wilson reconnected with a childhood friend who shared a vision for a mobile clinical lab. “I was interested in the idea both for its innovation and also with regards to potential patents,” said Wilson. He would eventually become both a business and patent advisor for the Miami-based startup and guide scaling the business idea that would ultimately become Statlab Mobile. In 2020, when the company partnered with the Florida Division of Emergency Management to expand Florida’s COVID-19 testing capacity, Wilson joined the team full-time as CEO.
“And it’s been virtually non-stop ever since,” said Wilson.
Currently, demand for COVID-19 testing is still high, but the national focus has shifted slightly as vaccination distribution takes center stage. Nevertheless, the future looks exceptionally bright, as being agile has paid dividends for the thriving company. “We strive to remove the stigma that clinical lab services are unattainable – whether because of cost or mobilization concerns,” said Wilson. “We created a service that is not only customizable to an individual client’s needs, but also easy, affordable, and most importantly, attainable.”
“We’ll continue expanding our mobile diagnostic lab services with more units on the road, but we are certainly experienced in setting up pop-up medical services all around the state and can easily adapt to mobile vaccinations,” said Wilson. “In the meantime, our flagship mobile lab has been at the Florida Capitol Building testing senators, representatives and staff weekly, and we are also expanding to address new and evolving travel requirements.”
Statlab Mobile not only provided an opportunity to combine two of Wilson’s passions – science and law – but also opportunities he wouldn’t have dreamed of as a child who grew up loving to experiment. “The state of Florida, NASA and SpaceX tapped us as the on-site COVID-19 testing source for the VIPs and officials attending the historic Demo-2 launch this past summer,” said Wilson. “It was definitely a personal thrill for me.”
Wilson is always looking to learn something from every experience, be it a positive or negative one, and he’s undoubtedly learned plenty over the past year.
“Above all,” said Wilson, “be ready to adapt, often in unexpected ways. Life, in general, can feel steady and stable, and it mostly is from day-to-day. But its zigs and zags have a funny way of showing up at inconvenient times, so unless you’re willing to adapt to new circumstances, sometimes quickly, it can be difficult to maneuver through the challenges they bring.”