What do you do?
I design clinical trials! I work with small and midsize biotech and pharma companies to design clinical trials for their products. The process starts with background research, reading whatever preclinical data or clinical data the client has. Then I see what literature already exists in the particular field to see if there are any published studies I can use as a model. I take all of that information and work with the client to design a study that meets their needs for data collection, costs, regulatory statutes, and timelines. It’s a new challenge every day!
Why did you choose this field?
I do remember one moment as an undergrad where I was doing an experiment and I got some new data and I realized that I was doing truly novel research and that I knew something that no one else in the world had ever known before. It was a really powerful moment that showed me how my research change the world in small ways, which leads to changing the world in bigger ways. At each step in my career I’ve had a realization that I love some aspect of what I’m doing which has led to the next step of my career. I realized I loved bench science, so I went to grad school. I realized I loved immunology, so I spent most of my research focused on immunology. I realized I wanted to be closer to the clinic and patients, so I started pursuing a career in clinical research. It’s been helpful for me to take a step back periodically and ask what I like and don’t like about what I’m doing and where I want to be next.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I didn’t have the best grades in college, so it felt like a huge accomplishment to be accepted to my PhD program at Johns Hopkins. Then I defended my PhD when I was 35 weeks pregnant! It’s hard to balance having a family and a career, but it’s possible. I also wish I’d known the extent of careers and job titles that are available after a PhD. I thought I had to be a professor because I just didn’t know what else was available. I wish I had spent more time learning about different careers and fields to pursue after a PhD. I’m still learning about what’s possible and figuring out where my career can take me. There are so many incredible opportunities in Biomedical research.
Why do you love working in STEM?
Every day I get a new challenge. I spent a lot of my career working in immunology and oncology, and I love both of those. While I still get to work in those fields, I also get to work on rare diseases and CNS indications like Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. Sometimes I have to design clinical trials for diseases I’ve never heard of before. I really love learning new things and getting to work on so many different kinds of projects. I have to think about all aspects of a trial, like how the patients will feel about it, what kinds of operational challenges my design creates, what kind of budget the sponsor has, and what kind of strategy we should take with the regulatory authorities like the FDA and the EMA. I get to problem solve, learn new things, and help get important drugs to patients who need them. I want my work to make a difference and knowing that I help get incredible new therapies to patients is really rewarding.
Best advice for next generation?
No one is going to hand your career to you. If you’re interested in something, ask about it! Find a book or a website or a podcast or a person who works in the field and learn everything you can. You live in an incredible time where the Internet and social media can be used to connect you with powerful people and opportunities, but you have to go get them. Be Fearless!
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
Role model - If I could meet anyone it would be Madeleine Albright. I’ve read all of her books and she is a fierce, smart, trailblazing woman whom I absolutely admire!