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Environmental Factor, October 2015

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NIEHS trainee begins career in product development

By Simone Otto

Monica Frazier

Shown with her 2013 NIEHS Science Day award-winning poster, Frazier nurtured her research skills, while enhancing her career development. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Roel Schaaper

During more than three decades of working with trainees in his lab, Schaaper has encouraged building a solid career skill set that will be useful at or away from the bench. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Headshot of Tammy Collins

Collins oversees a rich program of career awareness and development training that ranges from time management and communication to public speaking, teaching, and presentation skills. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

In June, former NIEHS Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellow Monica Frazier, Ph.D., began a new career as an integrated product development associate at Rho Inc., a contract research organization located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

“We are thrilled to have Monica,” said Jack Modell, M.D., senior medical officer at Rho. “She has already made major contributions and is sought out for her knowledge, enthusiasm, and collaborative team spirit.” Frazier’s new position will allow her to use her writing experience while she gains regulatory experience and immerses herself further in science.

Frazier earned her Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied protein folding. At NIEHS, she researched deoxyribonucleoside triphosphate pools in strains of E. coli.

Roel Schaaper, Ph.D., head of the Mechanisms of Mutation Group within the NIEHS Genome Integrity and Structural Biology Laboratory, mentored Frazier and encouraged her to develop professionally. “One thing that impressed me about Monica is how diligently she worked on improving her skills both inside and outside the lab,” said Schaaper.

Broadening her goals

Frazier said she took advantage of the career development opportunities and resources at the institute, including helping plan the NIEHS Biomedical Career Symposium and writing for the Environmental Factor for 2 1/2 years. In addition, she chaired the NIEHS Trainees Assembly from 2014 to 2015 and mentored a student in the NIH Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research.

Frazier credits peers in the Trainees Assembly for keeping her accountable and on track in her job search. “I worked hard to identify the things I was passionate about and skilled at, then sought out positions where I could combine those,” she said.

Frazier’s attention was drawn to the opening at Rho by friends she met while at NIEHS. She is confident these friendships will last beyond her time at the institute. “I think the key to networking is to build relationships and not to use those contacts only when you need help,” said Frazier.

The importance of mentoring

Tammy Collins, Ph.D., director of the Office of Fellows’ Career Development, played an important role in mentoring Frazier, by helping her explore career paths, develop her curriculum vitae, and practice her interviewing skills. Frazier said Collins also gave her valuable advice on negotiating.

“Thank them for the offer, say what you liked about it, and talk about the part you would like to negotiate,” Collins told her. “It’s important to know your own value, as well as what sets you apart and makes you unique.”

Frazier also credited Environmental Factor Editor in Chief Kelly Lenox and her predecessor, Eddy Ball, Ph.D., with mentoring her. “Writing, leadership, communication, and teamwork were all major talking points in my interviews,” said Frazier. “Having been a writer for the Environmental Factor really helped me stand out.”

Her advice for other NIEHS fellows is to get involved and take advantage of the opportunities available at the institute, especially through the Office of Fellows’ Career Development. “I am grateful for the tremendous support I received while at the institute,” said Frazier. “I cannot say enough about it.”

(Simone Otto, Ph.D., is an IRTA fellow in the NIEHS Ion Channel Physiology Group.)

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