Ensuring drug safety: A chemist in regulatory affairs
Feb21

Ensuring drug safety: A chemist in regulatory affairs

Profile: Olen Stephens, Ph.D. chemist, chemical and manufacturing controls reviewer at the Food and Drug Administration. A few weeks back, Glen wrote a post about a website, INSPIRE, which is chock-full of information about government jobs for scientists. If you haven't yet, check it out here. There's still time to take the survey that will help them improve their site. As promised, here is the first of two profile posts about chemists currently working for the federal government. Today I'd like you to meet Olen Stephens, a Ph.D. chemist who works in regulatory affairs. From academia into government Olen Stephens always thought he wanted to be a college professor, but after giving it a try, he realized it wasn’t the job for him. Now he works in regulatory affairs at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and says he loves his job and the work-life balance it allows him. I should also mention that Olen and I share a family connection. He’s my mother-in-law's sister's son, a.k.a. my husband’s cousin! Olen was a double major in chemistry and biology at Earlham College and went on to get a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of Utah (2004). After a postdoc in biophysical chemistry at Yale University, he landed a tenure-track professorship position at his alma mater, Earlham College. As a chemistry professor, Olen taught organic chemistry, biochemistry and general chemistry. But the job was “not a good fit on either side,” he says. “Teaching wasn’t what I thought it was,” Olen says. The combination of teaching, grant writing, and conducting research left little time to spend with his wife and newborn son. At the same time, Olen says he wasn’t interested in working in industry either. In his first year teaching at Earlham, Olen met another Earlham alumnus who worked at the FDA.  Later, when Olen was looking for a career change, she told him about a position they were looking to fill. Five months later, Olen had landed the job and his family moved to the Washington, D.C. area, and the rest is history. Regulatory affairs-- What's that all about? Olen has been working as a chemical and manufacturing controls reviewer since 2008 and finds his career both challenging and rewarding. At the FDA, Olen works as part of a team to review drug applications and identify safety issues that need to be addressed before drugs can be administered to humans. The job requires a lot of reading and writing, which Olen says he enjoys and was well-equipped for, thanks to the liberal arts education he received at Earlham as an undergrad. There was a huge learning curve when...

Read More