Emily Miller, PhD, PMP wears many hats at the Duke Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). She manages multiple projects as a Team Science Project Leader, onboards new faculty and fields research-related questions as a myRESEARCHnavigator, and helps lead Consult Studios. While her projects vary, all of her roles support complex research programs by helping investigators overcome barriers specific to studies in various phases of the translational science continuum. Emily finds that her work in each area strengthens her skills in the others. She describes her overall role as “PI-extender.” By delving into projects and critical pieces outside the expertise or available time of the principle investigator, Emily works to fill in knowledge gaps and keep all of the team members connected and moving forward.
Emily’s interest in project management in the clinical and translational sciences began during the fourth year of her PhD training when she joined the Discovering Career Options in Translational Science (DICOTS) program. DICOTS is designed to give science trainees opportunities to work with mentors in research disciplines such as clinical trials, project management, and scientific writing to explore each through first-hand participation. Through the DICOTS program, Emily learned the language of project management, practiced the fundamental components, and further developed her communication skills. During that time, Emily was struck by the realization that her work as a basic science researcher had already included many project management practices. Even though academic research is not often described in the language of project management, Emily had led multiple collaborations, managed several projects, and mentored students during her research work.
Although a career transition from basic science researcher to translational science project leader might seem daunting to some, Emily took this on with an eagerness to learn, ask questions, and share her knowledge to support investigators’ research programs. Further, she continues to find new ways to help researchers develop rigorous translational research programs. For example, Emily is helping lead “Consult Studio” sessions during which an investigator can seek guidance on complex research process issues. The Consult Studio breaks down the complexity and pairs the investigator with experts to address different components such as outlining the myriad of translational activities to navigate complex areas of engagement and partnering with other groups, e.g., Duke’s Office of Licensing & Ventures (OLV), Office of Regulatory Affairs and Quality (ORAQ) or Procurement, to enable the researcher to achieve the next translational step.
As a relatively new project manager, Emily is grateful for the mentorship she receives through the Duke Project Management Community of Practice (PMCoP). Emily also gives back to the community, most recently as a new member of the Steering Committee. In addition, Emily is excited about helping students learn about research career paths within translational and clinical sciences. Explains Emily, “If graduate students can just spend one hour meeting new people through the PMCoP, or other graduate career forums, they can learn more about the many different roles and activities that contribute to larger research programs. This exposure to these new perspectives and ideas is critical for students before they graduate, and could mark the serendipitous start of a new and fulfilling career path in project management.