Laurel Nightingale headshot on blue background

MNCCTN HUB Highlight: Laurel Nightingale

We at the MNCCTN HUB are 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 22 clinical sites that conduct research throughout Greater Minnesota. June's HUB Highlight is Senior Project Manager, Laurel Nightingale, MPH, MPP. Laurel began working with MNCCTN in March 2021 and leads the MNCCTN Portfolio Team in managing studies. Hear from Laurel about the career path that led her to MNCCTN, what she enjoys about working in research, how MNCCTN is unique, and what qualities are a good fit for a career in research.

What was your career path to your current role with MNCCTN?

My path to research hasn’t been typical in many ways. My career path has been strongly influenced by my interest in understanding different people and cultures. I’ve spent almost a year living in Ghana and Sierra Leone working on health-related projects, as well as a year living in the UK. I have a BA in Anthropology, and my interest in the way culture influences health eventually led me to an Epidemiology Master of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. I think it’s impossible to separate public health from public policy, so I concurrently completed a Master of Public Policy.

It was during my graduate studies that I “fell” into research. I started my career focused on increasing minority participation in cancer clinical trials at the University of Minnesota. I immediately fell in love with research and the focus on working towards more equitable outcomes for all patients resonated with my previous life experiences. Since that time, I’ve worked in a variety of research settings, including primary care, pragmatic trials, substance abuse, and eventually back to cancer care.

What do you enjoy most about working in cancer research? What is the biggest challenge?

I enjoy working in cancer research because I truly believe that I help improve people’s lives every day. I won’t be the person responsible for curing cancer, but I can help improve one person’s life at a time and that has a real impact that radiates out into the community. It’s easy to feel good about this work!

As for the challenges? There’s always a new challenge waiting around the corner! It’s part of what keeps the job interesting, but things always manage to pop up that are unexpected and need to be addressed.

What is unique about MNCCTN?

MNCCTN is unique in so many ways! There are many cancer clinical trial networks in the world, but MNCCTN’s unique success is built on the interpersonal and professional connections between the HUB team, our clinical partners, and research partners. I really appreciate how we work together to help achieve the mission of the network! 

What three words best describe the MNCCTN HUB team?

Collaborative, supportive, and fun-loving.

What are the most important qualities and skills for those interested in a research career?

I think the most important skills for working in research are curiosity, a desire to learn, attention to detail, and strong communication.