David Craig, PharmD | Editor

Member Spotlight

Future Leaders Spotlight: 2010 Recipient

Shivani RuparelShivani Ruparel, PhD

How/why did you enter the field of pain?

I entered the field of pain after my doctoral degree, during my postdoctoral fellowship. I entered the field of pain for two reasons:

  1. I wanted to get an interdisciplinary training in science. My doctoral training was in cancer biology where I learned the molecular and cellular systems. Doing a fellowship in the pain field taught me completely new techniques, as well as neuroscience, which I was not exposed to before.
  2. While I was still interested in the field of cancer, I realized that cancer patients are in a lot of pain due to a variety of reasons and I figured knowing the pain field would complement my doctoral training and allow me to combine the two as an independent researcher in the future.

Why do you work in pain?

Pain is a symptom that every single person in this world experiences, be it acute or chronic. Therefore, for someone who wished to pursue independent research, wanting to have the knowledge of pain mechanisms was obvious to me as it directly applies and relates to everyone around you.

How has being a Future Leaders recipient transformed your career?

Receiving the future research award during my postdoctoral fellowship provided me with several perks:

  • It gave me an experience of how to efficiently manage research funds, as this was my very first secured funding in my career.
  • It allowed me to expedite my research project due to the additional funds that I could use to collaborate with others.
  • It allowed me to meet with several experts in the field and introduce myself as an upcoming scientist as well as receive input about securing future National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding.

All of the above experiences helped me build my scientific network, secure R01 funding within 3.5 years of my faculty appointment, and manage the funds productively and efficiently. I am very thankful to APS for this award.

What is your favorite part of your work, and why?

My favorite part of my job is that everyday is different. The best part of research is that it never gets monotonous. Another good part of being a researcher is that you have ample opportunities for stimulating conversations with a variety of people including other faculty, trainees, and even staff. Like I always say, "research is like solving a big giant puzzle."

What is the biggest challenge you've faced?

I think the biggest challenge of my job is maintaining enough funding for my research as well as my employees’ salaries. I am sure this is the biggest challenge for many academicians.

Rita Allen Scholar Spotlight: 2009 Recipient

Theodore PriceTheodore J. Price, PhD

How did you enter the field of pain?

I got into the pain field on accident. I met Chris Flores and Ken Hargreaves when I was a PhD student and was interested in their work on cannabinoid pharmacology. I never dreamed I would end up working in the pain field, as my interests at that time were mostly focused on depression and neurochemistry of psychiatric disorders.

I went to their lab for the cannabinoid work and stayed because I discovered, mostly through Chris and Ken’s (and later Armen Akopian, who joined the group after I was in the lab already) passion for pain research, that the neurochemistry of pain is a tremendously interesting system with tremendous potential for discovery that will directly benefit patients. This is really what drew me to pain neurobiology as a career path.

Why do you work in pain?

I want to discover and then develop nonopioid analgesics for acute or chronic pain. That is my driving motivation.

How has being a Rita Allen Scholar transformed your career?

The Rita Allen Foundation has done things for me that I never imagined possible. Their network of scholars, developed over decades, is one of the deepest scientific talent pools in the world. Scholars I have met in the pain area, and in other areas of biology, have fundamentally changed almost every aspect of my research.

When I got the award from Rita Allen Foundation I thought it was all about the money for the lab. I could not have been more wrong. The real benefit of the award has been the enumerable ways that the Rita Allen Foundation has supported my career and helped me develop new collaborations and ideas.

How has being part of the Rita Allen/APS community benefited your career?

I discussed the Rita Allen aspect above. APS has been equally instrumental in benefitting my career. APS is really where I first got involved in the broader pain field. APS, since I joined in the mid 2000s, has given me opportunities to take leadership roles in the field. It started for me working as a co-chair of the Basic Science SIG with Bob Coghill and then moving on to a number of positions, including now sitting on the APS Board of Directors.

The connections I have made through APS have helped me at every stage of my career. Many of my collaborations started with discussions at APS meetings. Most importantly, I am always invigorated by what I learn at APS meetings.

What is your favorite part of your work, and why?

For most of my career it has been the joy of discovery. There is simply nothing like being the first person on the planet to know something new about the biology. Now it is more about seeing the joy of discovery in my trainees. It never gets old.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced?

Honestly, I have never had any serious challenges in my life. There have been little things here and there but I have mostly been lucky to live a life of privilege. I am constantly inspired by the many people I have had the great pleasure of working with who have endured hardships that are beyond my comprehension. Conquering our biggest medical problems, such as chronic pain, will require talented scientists from all over the world from all types of backgrounds. I am horrified that so much of our society is moving away from the ideal of inclusiveness and opportunity toward nativism. I think a huge future challenge will be to play a role in making the general public more aware of how science is a worldwide effort that requires the talents of the best and brightest from all walks of life and all corners of the world.