By: Mahi RN 
Senior Manager, Research Operations

The Insider: Mahi joined Duke-NUS as a Manager with the Office of Research in 2009. Her primary responsibilities are to oversee the safety, regulatory compliance and crisis management for the school. She also supports the school's research activities in the areas of compliance to legal, IBC, IRB and IACUC requirements; and operation of research facilities. She reports to Dr. Viji Vijiyan, Director of the Research Operations and her office is located on level 6 in the administrative block.  

When I first visited Singapore in 1999, I had no inkling that this would eventually be my home for over a decade. As with every tourist, I was wowed by the efficiency and orderliness in Singapore.

I was born and brought up in Chennai, India. I graduated from Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, a reputable Indian university located at the beautiful desert state of Rajasthan. Besides fostering new friendships, university’s hostel life exposed me to a variety of new experiences which built up my resilience, courage and compassion. 

Following the demise of my father, I decided to move out of India and applied for the PhD programs in the US and Singapore. The lure of the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), and the availability of resources accompanied by the Singapore government’s push towards bio-medical initiatives influenced my decision to pursue my PhD with IMCB. Singapore, being a cosmopolitan society and its close proximity to home (in India), were definitely contributing factors as well.

My PhD thesis was titled “Regulation of subcellular localization and functions of RGK proteins by 14-3-3 and Calmodulin”. I would never forget the strenous work and days spent in the lab and working on my thesis. I treated myself to a panna cotta almost daily, on the pretext of being stressed out! Two years into my PhD, I met my husband in Singapore and we got married within eight months of knowing each other!  My family and I were equally surprised, with the quick progress and they thought it was the stress of the PhD that made me accept the proposal.   

The Research Operations team!

I have always desired to steer my career towards an administrative role in Life Sciences upon the completion of my PhD. However, the research data and the project that I was working on turned out to be so interesting, I continued with post-doctoral research for two years after my graduation.

I then decided to move on and took a break for about eight months, travelling to the US and India. When I returned to Singapore, I saw the Duke-NUS opening for a Research Operations position. Needless to say, the appeal of working in an administrative role at a research organization led me to pursue this option.  On hindsight, Duke-NUS had been the perfect platform for me to make the transition. It provided me the unique opportunity of continuing to be in a research environment and while concurrently developing and honing my skills in management. My research experience plays a crucial role in my day-to-day activities, be it in audit, discussions with regulatory authorities or in project reviews. What interests me is also the fact that my current role does not just focus on lab safety, but safety for the School as a whole.  

A good example of this would be the recent OHSAS 18001 certification for Duke-NUS.  The work was strenuous – documentation, preparation, reviews followed by the audit process – and the certification would not have been possible, if not for the leadership support and collaboration, coupled with the fantastic teamwork between colleagues and departments. We are the fourth school in NUS to obtain this certification and I am extremely proud to have spearheaded this process and be part of an organization that has achieved this accreditation. 

I enjoy traveling, playing badminton, going for long walks and cooking. Weekends are exclusively for my husband – as he travels on most week-days; We love to catch-up with friends to unwind. Singapore as a country has been wonderful so far – with constant changes! I am truly grateful for all the opportunities that have transcended my path.