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Environmental Factor, March 2013

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LMC fellow enters the field of regulatory affairs

By Sonika Patial

Bhargavi Rao, Ph.D.

Rao took an active part in NTA and other career development and networking opportunities during her stay at NIEHS, which helped her decide on her eventual career path. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Trevor Archer, Ph.D.

“Bhargavi was a pleasure to have in the lab,” Archer said of Rao. “She brought her prior experience in yeast, working on epigenetics and histone modifications, to a totally new set of studies on embryonic stem cells. Bhargavi was very hard working and stepped up to the challenge of establishing protocols and, in collaboration with the Clinical Research Unit, for the creation of the first set of human-induced pluripotent stem cell lines at NIEHS.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Bhargavi Rao, Ph.D., an intramural research training award fellow in the Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis (LMC), left NIEHS in February to begin a career in regulatory affairs at Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD). Rao’s work will involve ensuring clinical trials conducted by pharmaceutical companies follow proper regulations, so that safe products enter the market in a timely manner.

At NIEHS, Rao worked in the Chromatin and Gene Expression Group headed by Trevor Archer, Ph.D., lead researcher and chief of the LMC. Her project involved understanding the role of chromatin remodeling in maintenance of pluripotency of embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells.

Looking back at her investment of time and energy in career development, Rao said, “Identifying your interests early on, and starting to build up your skills and CV to make yourself more marketable, can really pay off in the long run when you actually start looking for a job.”

Building a CV and taking advantage of opportunities at NIEHS

Rao was an active member of the NIEHS Trainees’ Assembly (NTA) and served on several committees, including the Biomedical Career Fair and Brown Bag Lunch Committee. When asked about what steps she took as a postdoctoral fellow at NIEHS to be a good fit for this particular career, she mentioned she had invited the director of regulatory affairs at the Duke Translational Medicine Institute as a guest for one of the Brown Bag Lunch programs she hosted.

“She introduced me to the regulatory affairs internship opportunity at Duke,” Rao said. “One thing led to another and, in a few months, I was doing an internship there. I really enjoyed the experience I gained through this internship and would recommend this to other fellows who might be interested in regulatory affairs,” she added. In addition, she joined the North Carolina Regulatory Affairs Forum and attended the group’s networking events. “These were really helpful, as I was able to learn more about regulatory affairs in general, as well as build my network.”

Rao also wrote stories for the Environmental Factor newsletter. “Since my new job involves quite a bit of data interpretation and writing, the experience gained while writing for the eFactor was extremely helpful in honing my writing skills,” she said.

According to Rao, Archer was also a very supportive mentor who gave her independence in terms of trying to decide the direction of her projects. “He was very understanding of my decision to pursue my career goals.”

“Networking, as well as good organizational and good presentation skills I developed during my stay at NIEHS, came in handy when I started looking and applying for jobs,” Rao said.

Networking, networking, and more networking

Rao stressed the importance of networking, by saying that it is absolutely essential. “This is the only way to get your dream job. The idea of approaching people that we don’t know can be intimidating in the beginning. However, networking is a skill in itself and, with time, you get better at it,” she added with a laugh.

PPD is a global contract research organization providing services in the areas of drug discovery, development, and life cycle management.

(Sonika Patial, D.V.M., Ph.D., is a fellow in the NIEHS Laboratory of Signal Transduction.)

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