Alumna Spotlight: Lakshmi Ilakkuvan '13
Lakshmi Ilakkuvan '13 was a psychology major at Bryn Mawr and now works as senior clinical research associate in the clinical operations department at Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly, primarily working on Alzheimer's, diabetes, and oncology clinical trials.
Lakshmi will return to campus as part of the Career & Civic Engagement Office’s "Listen, Learn, and Connect" event to talk about careers in STEM from 7-8 p.m. on Nov. 18. Lakshmi will be joined by Jenni Punt '83, a professor of immunology and the associate dean of One Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Students can learn more and register via Handshake.
In the below Q&A, Lakshmi talks about breaking into the field of clinical research and how the culture of Bryn Mawr pushed her to take risks and pursue her exciting career.
How did you get involved in your current field?
I have always been interested in health care and thought I wanted to be a doctor. When I figured out medical school wasn’t for me and decided to leave (one of the hardest, but best decisions I have made), I decided to explore other career options and connected with Bryn Mawr’s alum career coach. In that conversation, as we were discussing different career tracks, she suggested clinical trials. I enjoyed the research (through summer internships and senior thesis) I did while I was a student, and my first job out of college was also in research. I conducted some informational interviews with alums and could see myself in the pharma industry. I work in clinical operations where we help manage clinical trials. I am able to combine my passion for science, helping others, and working with people to help advance clinical trials. We’ve especially seen the impact of clinical trials through COVID-19 this past year, and it’s fulfilling to be a clinical research professional. Though it was a roundabout way of getting here, I’m so grateful to have found my passion. The work I do impacts so many patients, I am continuously learning, and I just love what I do.
What part of your Bryn Mawr experience has been most important to your professional development?
Bryn Mawr helped me gain confidence in myself and my abilities. Thanks to a liberal arts education, I have a well-rounded background that serves me well in a STEM field. I also enjoyed the leadership experiences I gained while being a customs person and hall advisor on the Dorm Leadership Team, which empowered me with the conflict resolution and interpersonal skills I’ve needed in the real world.
What career advice do you have for current Bryn Mawr students?
- It’s okay if what you have set out to do isn’t working out as you hoped or planned—there are so many wonderful opportunities and jobs out in the world that you will find what you’re meant to do with some exploration, patience, and determination. Once you’re out in the real world, you will learn that career pivots are fairly common.
- Take advantage of summer funding for internships through the Dean’s Office.
- Networking is vital! Conduct informational interviews with alums whose fields you are interested in to see if you can see yourself having a similar job.
- Don’t feel pressure or that it is necessary to get a graduate degree to land a great job—there are many fields where you can work your way up with work experience and you can always go back and get it later if needed.
What made you choose to attend Bryn Mawr?
The strong sense of community and being surrounded by women who want to do well and make a difference. It’s an inspiring environment to be surrounded by such intelligent, motivated, kind, strong women!