Building a Career in the IACUC World: An Interview with Paula Portalatin

Paula_PortalatinWelcome to the latest installment of our member feature interviews, which seek to highlight PRIM&R members who are working to advance ethical research in their daily lives. Read on to learn about Paula Portalatin, a post award staff associate at the University of Maine, in Orono, ME.

PRIM&R: When and why did you join the field?
Paula Portalatin (PP): In 2003, I started working as an animal caretaker at a small institution and by 2008, I was working as a veterinary assistant and institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) coordinator. I have always enjoyed working with animals and was delighted when I could combine my love for animals and my administrative talents into one job.

PRIM&R: What is one thing you wish the general public knew about animal research?
PP: I wish more people were aware of how long the review is for an animal protocol and how many people are involved in approving the protocol. A lot of people do not see or understand how much care is involved with the animals that are in animal studies.

PRIM&R: What is something you know now that you wish someone had told you when you first entered this field?
PP: I wish that I would have known much earlier in my career about the IACUC and the job opportunities related to animal research. Even as a student in a veterinary technician program, the research careers were never mentioned. I think I would have joined the field much sooner if I had known.

PRIM&R: What changes in the research field most concern you? What changes are you encouraged by?
PP: What concerns me the most in animal research is the administrative burden that has been building for both the IACUC office as well as the principal investigator. Some of the added burden is not really helping to make better science. One of the changes I am glad to see is that it seems that OLAW and the USDA are trying to make their regulations similar . I would love to someday see a standard animal protocol form that all animal research programs could use.

PRIM&R: What motivates you to maintain your commitment to advancing ethical research?
PP: What motivates me to continue working in this field is when I hear about some of the wonderful advances and discoveries that are made every day because of animal research. Hearing about a new medical device that will save lives or a new drug that will cure a disease: those are all things that make me feel good about what I do and make me feel that what I do is important to society.

PRIM&R: Have there been any PRIM&R events or talks that you have attended that have made a significant impact on your approach to your work? How did they influence you?
PP: I enjoy attending PRIM&R’s IACUC Conference as you can always learn something new from the presentations. I particularly enjoyed the “Current approaches to administering anesthetics and analgesics: What’s new? What works? What doesn’t?” session at the 2015 IACUC Conference. I have made suggestions to our IACUC regarding this topic when we are discussing a protocol based on this presentation.

PRIM&R: How has membership in PRIM&R’s community of research ethics professionals helped you to advance in your career or do your job better?
PP: PRIM&R has helped me do my job better by keeping me up to date with the changes in the laboratory animal field. Attending some of PRIM&R’s IACUC Conferences has helped me brainstorm with other people that are facing similar challenges in the workplace. It has also been a way to ask other people about software options and other ideas to solve problems we all face in our jobs.

Thank you, Paula, for the work you do to ensure the ethical treatment of animals! We are glad to have members like you in our community.

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a member, please visit our website today.