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Staff Spotlight: Jeremy Rouanet

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Within the lab of Laurie Sanders, PhD, Jeremy Rouanet has one foot in the world of clinical research and another in the world of bench research, obtaining IRB approval for a study one moment, and isolating DNA the next. As the subject of this week’s “Spotlight” interview, Rouanet talks to us about how he loves both sides of this work and how he’ll continue this hybrid approach as an MD/PhD student at the University of California, Irvine this fall. He also talks about his love of baking, film photography, and the three bicycles (including a professional racing bike older than he is) he uses to travel through Orange County.

What are your responsibilities within the Sanders lab? What does your average work day look like?
As a Clinical Research Coordinator, one could say I coordinate the clinical research in the Sanders lab. We have several ongoing clinical studies that I manage, from obtaining initial IRB approval to data entry. My average work day is very dependent. In the mornings, I may be consenting research subjects and collecting blood in the clinic at Morreene Road, later processing blood and isolating DNA in the lab. I could also be recruiting/scheduling participants, writing or amending proposals for IRB review, discussing experiments in the lab with Dr. Sanders and my co-workers, or entering data. My days are highly dynamic and variable, so there really is never a dull day.

You’ll be leaving to start medical school later this year. Where will you be attending, and what interests, if any, do you have in medicine so far? If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
Beginning this fall I will be an MSTP (MD/PhD) student at University of California, Irvine. Currently my interests lie in neurology (go figure!). My undergraduate degree is in Neuroscience and I've had an interest in neurological disorders since high school. My current interests are in aging and neurodegenerative diseases, especially from a research standpoint. However, I will be approaching medicine with an open mind. If I could have any job in the world, I would surely be a physician scientist.

How did you first get involved with the Sanders lab?
Although I joined the Sanders lab last September, this is actually my fourth year at Duke. I received my bachelor's degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University in 2014 and spent three years working as a Research Technician in Dr. Debby Silver's lab in the MGM department at Duke, working on projects studying mammalian brain development through the lens of RNA dynamics and evolution. I wanted to learn the ropes of clinical research and Dr. Sanders provided me this opportunity in an extremely immersive way. Acting as a bridge between Bryan Research and the clinic at Morreene Road has been a challenging yet extremely rewarding experience.

What do you enjoy most about your work? What’s been the most interesting or valuable experience from your time in the Sanders lab so far?

I really enjoy that I'm doing exciting clinical research in a translational lab. It's a very unique position. I talk science with my lab-mates, perform science at the bench, but my primary role is in clinical research. I love that my responsibilities are shared between the clinic and the lab, which makes this a perfect launch pad into my future career. Second to that, my colleagues in the lab, the Department, and of course the research volunteers bring me so much joy on a daily basis.

The most valuable experience has been seeing firsthand the different stages of a study from obtaining IRB approval to data entry. When you're intimately familiar with the work that went into planning and setup, it gives additional insight into the value of each vial of blood collected as the study is carried out. I plan to be involved in clinical research for many years to come, and now the fog has lifted for many aspects of the process.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
My biggest passion and hobby is cycling. I often ride one of my three bikes in the countryside between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. You may also see me commuting between Morreene Road and Bryan Research on a 1970s professional racing bike that I can talk about at length, but I'm sure few would want to hear about. I also enjoy baking (mostly French goods), film photography, and hiking in the mountains around Asheville.

J Rouanet
Rouanet enjoys a hike near Linville Gorge, one of his favorite haunts.