Misha Johnson, Ph.D.

Misha Johnson lgTell us about your current career position.
I currently work for Quintiles as a Senior Clinical Project Support Specialist (CRO).  

What are the key experiences and decisions you made that have helped you reach your current position?
While in graduate school, I made the decision to pursue a career in clinical research.  Through meeting with professionals in the industry and attending professional meetings/seminars about clinical trials, I felt that this would be a good fit for me. I started my clinical trials career working at the site level for a Phase I unit which was a great opportunity to gain exposure to clinical trials and observe first in human trials.  After one year in Phase I research, I decided to gain more experience with patient interaction and later phase studies.  I spent two years working as a study coordinator in Phase II-IV trials across various therapeutic areas.  Working as a study coordinator afforded me the opportunity to gain better knowledge regarding the conduct of clinical trials and the implementation of study protocols.  After three years of site experience, I had a desire to gain clinical trials experience from the CRO perspective and have been working as support to a project management team for Oncology trials since October of 2011.

How did you first become interested in science?
I became interested in science from a very young age.  Since the age of four, I have always been interested in how and why things work. This curiosity resulted in several trips to the local science museum.  In elementary school, I participated in after school programs that promoted exploration in science and math. Exposure to science that was presented in a fun and accessible manner solidified my interest.  By my junior year of high school, I knew that I wanted to study chemistry in college, which is what I did.

Were there times when you failed at something you felt was critical to your path?  If so, how did you regroup and get back on track?
What many consider to be failures, I consider opportunities for learning and growth. I have faced challenges along the way, the major challenge being finding my place in science.  I initially had the dream of pursuing a career in academia.  In my third year of graduate school, I realized that I did not enjoy writing papers and found the idea of writing grants was a daunting task.  This realization was sobering (and frightening) but being honest about what I did not see myself doing for a living is what gave me the confidence to research other opportunities in science.  Through this search for other opportunities, I was able to interact with professionals in the sciences who were not working in an academic setting.  I realized that there was a plethora of options of which I was not aware. It’s through networking that I stumbled upon a career in clinical research.

What advice would you give to young persons from under-represented backgrounds who want to pursue a career in science similar to yours?
It’s never too early to start researching career opportunities.  Become involved in professional organizations and/or attend conferences of interest.  Ensure that you have a presence in your field of interest. Also, share your experiences through mentoring to ensure that you are preparing the next generation of scientists. Being fully engaged in your surrounding professional community helps you and others stay the course.

What are your hobbies?
Tennis, Mentoring, I’m a Film and Music enthusiast as well.

What was the last book you read?
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling.

Do you have any heroes, heroines, or role models? If so, describe how they have influenced you?
My parents are my role models. As educators, they not only emphasized the importance of education but instilled a strong work ethic in me and my siblings. I learned everything that I know about sacrifice and hard work from them.

What is it that keeps you working hard and studying science every day?
I truly enjoy what I do.  It’s great working in a profession where we are working daily to bring new therapies to improve the quality of life for individuals who may be suffering with a condition. I feel as though I am helping to make a difference.