"At every stage of my professional career at NCTR I have had the freedom to conduct research of importance to FDA. All along the way, I’ve felt appreciated by FDA and have gained national and international recognition." -- Dr. Weida Tong, Chemist, Director, NCTR’s Division of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics.
Q: What opportunities does FDA offer you that you couldn’t get elsewhere?
Weida Tong: For me, it’s always a fulfilling experience to be able to conduct research that has a direct impact on the regulatory process and that affects public health. The National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) is the only FDA center focused solely on regulatory science research. NCTR’s work not only supports FDA’s current regulatory mission, our research ideas and approaches are also forward-looking to future regulatory needs of the agency. As FDA researchers, we have ample opportunity for imagination and innovation but, most importantly, we must maintain a clear path for practical application. NCTR engages with scientists across FDA and other government agencies, industry, and academia in cooperative efforts to strengthen the scientific foundations vital to developing sound regulatory policy, to promote global harmonization, and to promote international standardization of regulatory science. This offers a unique opportunity to share our regulatory science research with other countries and help to enable their application in the global setting.
Q: Why do scientists like you stay at FDA?
WT: It is of personal importance to me to have the freedom to pursue ideas and be appreciated, important, and recognized — I call it the FAIR principle (Freedom, Appreciation, Importance, and Recognition). NCTR and FDA follow my FAIR principle! I have worked at NCTR for 24 years, first as a junior scientist working in the area of computational chemistry. Since 1996, I have progressed to my current position at NCTR as the Director for the Division of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics, where I oversee diverse and talented scientists working in a broad range of scientific areas important to FDA. At every stage of my professional career at NCTR I have had the freedom to conduct research of importance to FDA. All along the way, I’ve felt appreciated by FDA and have gained national and international recognition. It is difficult to leave a place like NCTR that values my FAIR principle.
Q: How do you use your science degree at FDA?
WT: I earned a PhD in chemistry, completed postdoctoral training in computational chemistry, and learned biology and bioinformatics at work. My diverse background enables me to address a broad range of scientific questions critical to FDA’s mission. I also feel that 21st century science relies heavily on collaboration, communication, and teamwork – they have become essential for new ideas and new approaches. I have found that my training has made me well prepared for the 21st century science that is critical to FDA’s operation.
Q: How is science conducted at FDA unique from science conducted at the National Institutes of Health, academia, or industry?
WT: FDA’s science has immediate relevance to public health. Even when FDA scientists are working with emerging technologies, the research projects are always focused on new methods and new tools for regulatory application.