Brittany Pulkrabek headshot on dark blue background

HUB Highlight: Brittany Pulkrabek

The MNCCTN HUB team is highlighting our team members and the fantastic work they do. The MNCCTN HUB is the central team that works in the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, while MNCCTN is the overall, wider network made up of five health care Partners and 23 clinical sites that conduct research throughout Greater Minnesota. This month's HUB Highlight is MNCCTN's Project Manager, Brittany Pulkrabek. Brittany started with the MNCCTN HUB in July 2022 and has many years of experience in health care and research roles, including being a certified nursing assistant, medical assistant, clinical research coordinator, and now project manager! Hear from Brittany about her career path that led her to research, what she enjoys about working in research, how MNCCTN is unique, and what qualities are a good fit for a career in research.

HUB Highlight infographic- Brittany Pulkrabek, Project Manager


What was your career path before coming to MNCCTN?

I have a history of working in nursing homes, clinics, and hospital settings with fourteen years of healthcare knowledge, including six years working in clinical research. I grew up in Fargo, ND, which is where I started my healthcare career. I have always known my passion was healthcare because I love helping people. I completed a nursing assistant and BLS training, followed by obtaining my Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and BLS certifications. My first job working in healthcare was at a nursing home as a CNA. After a few years, I moved to Sanford Health, working primarily in the observation unit and floating to many other departments in the hospital.

I decided to move to Minneapolis, MN a couple of years later, and I got a job as CNA at a nursing home while going to school for Medical Assisting. I obtained my Associates Degree of Applied Science in Medical Assisting. I received a job offer from the University of Minnesota Physicians clinic, after finishing my externship there. In this role, I was introduced to research. I then took a job as a clinical research coordinator (CRC) in the Clinical Trials Office (CTO) at the University of Minnesota (UMN). I worked on various types of solid tumor trials in this role, starting with biobank trials and ending with phase I and II trials for the Development Therapeutics Initiative (DTI). A goal I focused on very early in my research career was project management. I made efforts to find trainings and work with other people in this role to help develop my skills. My efforts to work toward this goal led me to MNCCTN! 

I started my new role as a project manager at MNCCTN in July 2022. What interested me in this role is the fact that my colleagues from CTO were not too far away, and it was a new challenge and opportunity that was part of my goals. I am also currently working toward my Bachelor's degree in Communication Studies at the UMN and projected to graduate Fall 2025!

What is unique about MNCCTN?

The HUB team really works hard to bring our clinical and research partners together, so we can build on our partnership. MNCCTN team members build relationships by working on projects and collaborating together. We all make efforts to connect with one another for our MNCCTN annual meetings, conferences/trainings, and other events around the state or out of state! We also take pride in our mission and the community we have built together by leaning on each other’s strengths.

What 3 words best describe the MNCCTN HUB team?

The HUB team is dedicated to our mission to improve cancer outcomes for all Minnesotans and provide greater access to clinical trials by helping to remove barriers and expanding knowledge about research. The team is hard-working to help our clinical and research partners get what is needed and expected when opening a new trial, starting a new initiative, and/or continuing with a long term project. We are also supportive of each other through our work and personal lives.

What do you enjoy most about working in research? What is most challenging?

I enjoy that every day is different, and there is always a new challenge to figure out. I also love working and learning alongside our MNCCTN clinical and research partners. The biggest challenge of working in research is navigating the complexities across multiple health systems that have different standards and securing the resources necessary to prepare for and open trials.

What are the most important qualities and skills for a job in research?

Having worked as both a clinical research coordinator and project manager, I believe the most significant characteristics and qualities are problem-solving capabilities, patience, and humility. You will not always have the answers and cannot be an expert in all areas, so you have to be willing to trust and lean on your colleagues as well as have the willingness to learn together.

Is there anything else you want to mention about MNCCTN or research careers?

Did you know that MNCCTN has a Quarterly Research Education Forum? These forums are facilitated by the MNCCTN Research Education Committee, which includes a number of people from the HUB team and our clinical partners. We strive to help think through ideas in efforts to help expand research staff knowledge, specifically focused around coordinators and regulatory roles. Reach out if you're interested in attending!