Stanford staffer jumps back into research with help of NIH grant

A career re-entry grant from the National Institutes of Health has helped a bioengineer return to research after an interruption to care for family.

A career re-entry grant from the National Institutes of Health helped Anandi Krishnan resume her research. She's studying blood platelet gene markers in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms.
Courtesy of Anandi Krishnan

In 2011, Anandi Krishnan, PhD, was on the fast track to a promising academic research career.

A research fellow at Duke University, she had earned a PhD in bioengineering from Penn State in less than four years and was the lead author of 11 scientific papers. But a complicated pregnancy, an illness in her family and time off to care for her newborn child derailed her plans.

While she feared that the extended leave might end her research career, she was awarded a National Institutes of Health career re-entry grant in 2016 that enabled her to move from a staff position at Stanford back into research.

After she returned from her family leave in 2012, Krishnan and her husband, a postdoctoral scholar, faced the difficulty of landing jobs at the same university. Faculty research positions are scarce, and the competition for NIH grants is fierce. To increase their odds of success, the couple decided to relocate to the job-rich San Francisco Bay Area. Krishnan took a staff position in 2012 as the academic and research program officer at Spectrum, the Stanford Center for Clinical and Translational Research and Education, and the family moved to Palo Alto.

Missing research

Krishnan said she enjoyed her role at Stanford in educating young scholars on clinical and translational research. But over time, she found herself missing hands-on research. Then, through Spectrum, she heard about a new career re-entry program funded by the NIH’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program. She applied in 2016, and six months later, she had the funding to start again.

Called a “re-entry supplement,” the program funds the salary of investigators whose careers have been interrupted for one to eight years for unavoidable reasons. Examples of qualifying interruptions could include child-rearing, an incapacitating personal or family illness, a spouse relocation or military service.

“It was like the grant had been written specifically for my situation,” Krishnan said.

To apply, Krishnan first had to identify a mentor and lab space. Then she had to write a short research plan, draft a mentoring and career-development plan, and obtain letters of support. Stanford faculty and staff rallied to help.

James Zehnder, MD, professor of pathology and of medicine, agreed to be her mentor. When awarded the re-entry grant, the Pathology Department offered her an instructor position.

Krishnan decided to focus her current research on looking for blood platelet gene markers in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms, or MPNs, which are blood cancers that cause too many white or red blood cells or platelets to be produced in the body. Such markers could be used to diagnose and assess treatments in MPN patients.

Thrilled to do research again

“Platelets are understudied when it comes to blood cancers,” said Krishnan. “They aren’t simply sacks of glue that stop bleeding.”

Jason Gotlib, MD, professor of hematology, is advising her on her research and providing her with staff support for access to his MPN patient data registry.

Krishnan said she is thrilled to be back doing research, and is busy working in her new lab and expanding her bioinformatics skills. As she finishes her first year since receiving the re-entry grant, she’s putting the finishing touches on a new research paper and using her preliminary data to apply for more research grants. (She was recently awarded a research grant from the Pathology Department.)

“I am thankful to the various Stanford faculty and staff who helped me secure this unique opportunity and look forward to guiding the careers of others who might be navigating similar life-related interruptions,” Krishnan said.



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