Work-life balance is key: An interview with Melanie Mace

Welcome to another installment of our featured member interviews where we will continue to introduce you to more of our members—individuals who work to advance ethical research on a daily basis. Please read on to learn more about their professional experiences, how membership helps connect them to a larger community, and what goes on behind-the-scenes in their lives!

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Mace, human research protections program (HRPP) education and training coordinator at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in San Francisco, CA

Megan Frame (MF): When and why did you join the field?
Melanie Mace (MM): I joined the institutional review board (IRB) world completely by chance in 2003. After getting my master’s degree in the humanities from the University of Chicago, I had a hard time finding a full-time job. A friend helped me secure a temporary position filing gigantic protocols and making copies in the Biological Sciences Division IRB at my alma mater. Working in an IRB office was an eye-opening experience. I had applied for IRB approval for my Master’s thesis, but I was pretty clueless about what IRBs actually do. As I learned more, I became emboldened by the office’s mission to protect human subjects and enjoyed learning about the cutting-edge research our investigators were doing. When a permanent IRB administrator position opened up a few months later, I went for it and have been working in an IRB office ever since.

MF: What skills are particularly helpful in a job like yours?
MM: I am currently the human research protection program education and training coordinator at UCSF, so I speak with a lot of different people on a variety of topics. I get asked questions out of left field all the time, so it is essential that I am able to think on my feet and promise to get more information if I don’t know the answer. Being able to crack a joke doesn’t hurt either.

MF: Have there been any PRIM&R events or talks that you have attended that have significantly impacted your approach to your work? If so, what were they and how did they influence you?
MM: Early in my career, I attended IRB Administrator 101 in Chicago. Before the program, I often felt like I was trying to complete a frustrating, complicated crossword puzzle filled with acronyms – OHRP, FDA, FWA, HIPAA, etc. After the program, I felt like I saw the big picture, which made it much easier to tackle the puzzle.

MF: What is your proudest achievement?
MM: Keeping a healthy work-life balance is very important to me, and I am proud that I’ve been able to pursue a fulfilling career while raising an adorable toddler, Maisey.

Thank you for being part of our membership community and sharing your story, Melanie. We are glad to hear that the IRB Administrator 101 course helped you gain confidence early in your career, and look forward to seeing you at a future event!

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