Career Interview: M. Eileen Dolan, PhD

Professor of Medicine
Department of Medicine, University of Chicago

ASHG: If you could go back to when you were a trainee, what is one piece of advice you would give yourself for your current career?

Dr. Dolan: I would advise myself to spend a significant amount of time reading the literature to have a better sense of how well my research fits into the larger picture. I find many graduate students, like myself, get so caught up in the details of their experiments that they fail to focus on how their research impacts the field.

In addition, I would advise to be strategic regarding a postdoctoral fellowship. I was extremely fortunate to work for a bright, well-funded investigator who helped me write my first grant. That first grant allowed me to obtain my first faculty position. I would strongly encourage trainees to find a variety of mentors to help them navigate their career.

ASHG: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?

Dr. Dolan: My favorite parts of my job include mentoring students, collaborating with other scientists and attending national and international meetings. Although writing grants can be time-consuming and at times disappointing, the process of organizing one’s thoughts, creating a testable hypothesis, and designing experiments is enjoyable. Watching students succeed is also extremely rewarding.

The least favorite part of my job is the business component–dealing with budgets and personnel management. I did not take business classes as an undergraduate or graduate student, so it is challenging to learn by trial and error.

ASHG: What do you think the future holds for the field of genetics?

Dr. Dolan: Genetics is the most exciting field in science right now because of the potential of personalized medicine. Understanding genes associated with disease will help in the discovery of drugs to prevent or treat those diseases. In the future most, if not all, hospitals will be using genomics to improve patient outcomes. Studies identifying genetic variants associated with drug induced adverse events and/or response are important to the field of medicine.

Genetic studies continually improve our understanding of the function of what was once deemed “junk DNA”. Thus, the future of genetics promises increased understanding of the function of genetic variation that influences disease and/or response to drugs and that knowledge will have important implications on human health and well-being.

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