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Juliati Rahajeng, Ph.D.

Fellow | Cato Research

Interviews and Editing by: Alexandra Bortnick

Interview: November 2017
Transition: June 2017

1. Please list your previous department at UC San Diego and provide a brief description of the research you conducted?

I was a postdoc in the School of Medicine. I am a cell biologist by training. My research focused on the role of the oncogene GOPLH3 in anterograde trafficking and cancer.

2. Please describe your current job profile?

I am a Fellow at Cato Research working in the field of regulatory affairs. I author and review regulatory documents, including protocols for clinical trials, clinical study reports, and sections for Investigational New Drug (IND) and New Drug Application (NDA) documents.

3. What made you decide to transition into your current position?

During my fourth year of postdoctoral training, I decided that I did not want to stay at the bench. I began to look for alternative career paths. I discovered that the regulatory affairs field was a good career path for me because writing has always been my strength, and I would still be able to use the knowledge that I obtained in graduate school and postdoctoral training.

4. Apart from the research you conducted, do you feel like anything in particular has helped you acquire your current position?

I earned the Regulatory Affairs Essentials certificate from UCSD Extension. This initiative showed that I had a strong interest in regulatory affairs. Additionally, I volunteered for the SDRAN Education Committee, leading the United States RAC Study Group, and for the AWIS San Diego Chapter Newsletter Committee, writing and editing articles. I also joined the mentoring program offered by SDRAN. My mentor helped me prepare for my interviews. Also, I had learned statistics and SAS during my masters degree program, which are helpful tools to understand how data from clinical trials are analyzed.

5. Please list some of the most striking similarities and differences between your postdoc and current position?

As a postdoc, I set my own schedule for experiments. I had one main project and mostly communicated with my PI and a few other people in the lab. There was no firm deadline for my project. As long as no other scientists scooped my project, I could test as many hypotheses as I wanted without any time limit. In my current job, I am assigned to work on several projects with rigid deadlines for each project. Additionally, we have internal project team meetings and meetings with sponsors, which sometimes take a big portion of my time in a day. Therefore, time and project management are very important.

For each project, I try to understand the mechanism(s) of how the drug treats the disease and interpret the data from in vitro and preclinical studies. This approach greatly helps in writing protocols and/or clinical study reports and was similar to my process in grad school and as a postdoc. I would read articles to educate myself about the proteins I was researching and build my science on these studies by asking more questions and testing my hypotheses.   

6. Is there any specific challenge (during the entire process of transitioning) that you would like to highlight and, if so, how did you overcome it?

At the beginning, I found project and time management challenging. Since I work for a contract research organization (CRO), I am assigned several projects simultaneously. Each project has its own billing code for different activities. Therefore, I have to keep track of the amount of time that I spend on specific tasks for each project. Additionally, since each project has a unique timeline, I prioritize tasks with closer deadlines.

7. Please describe your goals and ambitions for the next 5 years?

I am studying for the United States RAC exam and plan to take the exam next year. I would also like to learn about regulations for marketing approvals in the European Union, Canada and other countries.

8. What do you feel you could have done more, as a postdoc, to help prepare you for or acquire your current position?

I wish I had found an opportunity to volunteer or intern in clinical research or regulatory affairs.

9. What do you feel is the most important advice you can give to a current UCSD postdoc in order for them to obtain a position such as yours?

I would encourage postdocs to educate themselves about regulatory affairs by either taking classes offered by UCSD Extension or Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS). I would also encourage them to join SDRAN, not only for the networking opportunities but also to attend SDRAN monthly meetings, join the RAC study group offered every summer, join the mentoring program, and apply for internships offered through the internship program in collaboration with various companies in San Diego.