2010-12 Health, Education & Human Services (HEHS) Fellow at the National Institutes of Helath
During her postdoc at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Mary Thomas, a current Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, recognized that she had some qualities that distinguished her from other scientists. She was very comfortable speaking to groups, enjoyed giving talks and communicating science to all types of audiences – from her scientific colleagues to members of the media. Because of her communication skills, colleagues selected her to be the liaison between her research department and the public for several projects at the hospital. She also realized that this skill could lead her to an exciting new career path.
Mary was first exposed to careers the policy realm when she used professional development funds from her postdoc at St. Jude’s to attend a National Academies’ Women in Science meeting, where she learned about many opportunities outside academia. After her postdoc, she participated in a three-month Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Graduate Policy Fellowship at the National Academies. Working on policy issues gave her more insight on the significance of her research.
Mary took her interest in policy to the next level by pursuing a AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship. She credits the AAAS Fellowship with providing an avenue to acquire transferable skills beyond those gained in the lab. “As a scientist, decisions are made more carefully and cautiously. Now, after being exposed to Washington, I have to think quickly and strategically, make a decision, and then take action.”
In her fellowship at the Office of Biorepository and Biospecimen Research at the National Institutes of Health, Mary is taking action, while also gaining international experience. She works on harmonizing efforts throughout the world with other biobanks, which store human biological samples for research. Last November, she participated in the European, Middle Eastern & African Society for Biopreservation & Biobanking Conference in Marseille, France.
Mary has now seen first-hand many of the disparities that developing nations face, and this project has spurred her interest in working with vulnerable populations to address these challenges.