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Environmental Factor, February 2012

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LST fellow makes a move from lab bench to global health

By Sonika Patial

Sindura Ganapathi, Ph.D.

Ganapathi found his job the old-fashioned way — by answering an advertisement. However, he credits networking with honing his interviewing skills, helping him maintain self-confidence, and creating a compelling CV and cover letter. (Photo courtesy of Sindura Ganapathi)

Intramural Research and Training Award Fellow Sindura Ganapathi, Ph.D. , took an important step in his career in January, when he transitioned from being a trainee in the Laboratory of Signal Transduction (LST) to his new role as an associate program officer in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program.

At NIEHS, Ganapathi worked in the LST Inositol Signaling Group, headed by Stephen Shears, Ph.D., exploring the regulation of cell migration by ClC-3 chloride channels and the development of inositol phosphates as therapeutic candidates targeting ClC-3 in diseases caused by abnormal cell migration, such as atherosclerosis and cancer.

In keeping with its slogan, “All lives have equal value,” the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the world’s largest non-profit organizations, strives to help all people lead healthy and productive lives. Ganapathi will be involved in funding research and development of new initiatives in such areas as vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics, with the goal of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and improving health. His role will also involve coordinating grant reviews and exploring new initiatives to improve maternal and neonatal health in developing countries.

Ganapathi acknowledges that his diverse background, a degree in veterinary medicine, research experience from his Ph.D. studies and postdoctoral fellowship, and experience growing up in a developing country made him a very good fit for the job. He was also able to highlight the predoctoral American Heart Association grant award that he received as evidence of experience in grant writing, which was an important part of the job description.

Starting the hunt early is the key

“Keeping an eye on available opportunities and starting the hunt early was the key to my success,” said Ganapathi, who started looking for jobs just six months after joining NIEHS. Networking, talking to people, attending job and career fairs, and keeping abreast of the job market helped him target the kind of jobs that interested him. “Finding the right opportunity can be complicated, to say the least,” he explained.

In addition to working in the Shears group, Ganapathi served as a member of the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA) steering committee, as well as the planning committee for the Biomedical Career Fair in 2011. “These activities not only helped broaden my network, but also kept me updated on what was happening around me. I was able to gain experience in leadership and teamwork skills that are an essential part of nearly every job description.”

According to Ganapathi, serving as the NTA steering committee liaison to the NIEHS Environmental Factor newsletter and contributing stories were also useful in the interview process. He was able to provide both scientific and non-scientific writing samples when requested during the second round of telephone interviews, which certainly made him a stronger candidate. “It helped me process my application and interview much faster, as I had well-edited writing samples ready to be sent,” he said.

Quality mentoring played a role

Speaking of his experience with mentoring at NIEHS, Ganapathi said he was grateful for guidance from his group leader. “Steve was very supportive and flexible in the lab and also served as a reference for the job application,” Ganapathi said.

In addition, he felt that Patricia Phelps, Ph.D., deputy director of the Graduate Partnerships Program in the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) and the Institute’s interim fellows career development specialist, was extremely helpful in preparing his curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter. He had several one-on-one career consultations with her and thought her presentations on “Jobs in the Industry” gave him greater insight into opportunities away from the bench. Ganapathi said he had three interviews, including one for his new job, and all of them were the result of advertisements on the OITE website.

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

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