Alumni Spotlight: Nicole Garbarini
By Lehanna Sanders
If asked about the most important skill a PhD in Biomedical Sciences could have, most people would not say communication. However, that is what Vanderbilt alumna Dr. Nicole Garbarini is truly passionate about. She is currently the Media and Policy Communications Specialist at the NIH Office of Extramural Research, an office that is tasked with the important job of working across multiple National Institutes of Health departments and government agencies on external research funding policies. Dr. Garbarini’s role in the process is relaying NIH grant information in laymen terms for multiple audiences, such as the press, research administrators, and more.
How does someone with a PhD in basic Neuroscience become involved in the grants communication department at the NIH? “I have always loved writing,” said Dr. Garbarini. This passion led her to seek out opportunities as a graduate student to hone her craft. She obtained a fellowship with AAAS working at Scientific American magazine, then later conducted freelance work and went on to a postdoc policy fellowship with AAAS where she conducted rotations at the NIH and the National Science Foundation. It was during these fellowships that Dr. Garbarini really began to develop professionally, and she perfected many of the skills she uses in her current position.
Her advice for current PhD students: “Talk to people.” She states that informational interviews with people from different disciplines is a good way to network as well as learn more about the variety of career options available, even for specialties within the larger field of science writing.
After speaking with Dr. Garbarini, it was clear too that she loves what she does and plans to continue her career within scientific communication. She is an inspiration for any BRET trainee looking to make a direct impact on society and the national climate of research.