Women in Science: Nancy Lin, Pharmacometrician I

In a world where only 30% of researchers are female, it’s critical to highlight the women who have built their careers in STEM and share their insights and advice with others.  

In this installment of our Women in Science series, Pharmacometrician Nancy Lin shares her story about childhood dreams of scientific exploration, changing career paths, and navigating self-doubt and societal expectations.   


What career did you imagine for yourself as a child? 

As a child, I dreamed of becoming a scientist. I always loved the idea of mixing ingredients and creating new mixtures. Dexter’s Laboratory on Cartoon Network also fueled my fascination. I’d imagine myself wearing a lab coat and exploring the world with endless curiosity.  


What career did you plan to pursue when you began college? If different than before, how did that change of mind come about? 

Throughout high school, I was involved in the biology science club and had a strong passion for biology. My father encouraged me to consider pharmacy instead of a pure basic science major, emphasizing the secure professional prospects and flexible career opportunities offered by the field of pharmacy. After being accepted into pharmacy school, I explored various avenues within the field, including bench work research, community, and hospital pharmacy. I eventually developed a strong interest in clinical patient care for cancer patients due to my love of people and how fulfilling it was to witness the direct impact of my intervention on a patient. Later, I decided to further my education and training by pursuing a PharmD degree and residency training.  


What was your first job out of college? 

Following my residency training, I embarked on my professional journey as a clinical pharmacist specializing in medical oncology and bone marrow transplant. In this role, I collaborated closely with physicians and nurses, actively participating in rounds to provide comprehensive medication management. My responsibilities encompassed a wide range of therapeutic decisions, including optimizing immunosuppressive regimens, addressing drug-drug interactions, implementing antibiotic stewardship protocols, managing anti-emetic and pain medications, and mitigating adverse effects associated with anti-cancer drugs. Additionally, I conducted therapeutic drug monitoring to ensure optimal treatment outcomes for patients. 

During this time, my supervisor offered me the opportunity to contribute to a busulfan pharmacokinetic initiative. This initiative involved utilizing modeling software and Bayesian estimation to predict the area under the curve (AUC) following the first dose. By accurately predicting the AUC, we aimed to improve long term transplant survival rates and mitigate transplanted-related mortality. Around the same time, I learned from a former classmate, who now works in clinical pharmacology, that University at Buffalo was opening a new master’s program in pharmacometrics and personalized pharmacotherapy. 

Inspired by this experience, I made the decision to return to school to pursue further training. This educational endeavor allowed me to deepen my knowledge, empowering me to contribute to patient care on a larger scale through quantitative modeling and individualized treatment approaches. 


How did you end up in your current role? 

During my master’s program, my research focus was on population pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) in carfilzomib from a small clinical trial. I was looking for a role to accumulate more hands-on technical modeling skills working with larger datasets and complex clinical design, to enhance my proficiency in software like NONMEM and MonolixSuite. I discovered the pharmacometrics role at Simulations Plus was an ideal fit. The role offered exposure to a diverse array of projects from various clients, providing an excellent platform to refine my technical modeling skills. 


What does your current role entail? 

In my current role, I collaborate closely with lead scientists, project managers, data scientists, and administrative support to perform a variety of tasks related to dataset assembly, data visualization, pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) or exposure-response (ER) modeling analysis, and clinical trial simulations.  

These modeling and simulation tools help expedite the drug development process by providing insights into clinical trials. They not only are required by FDA submission packages, but also enable us to understand the potential efficacy and safety of new drugs, optimize dosing regimens, and make informed decisions on trial design. 


What is your favorite part of this job?  

My favorite part of this job is the opportunity to take ownership of projects and work them through from start to finish. It is rewarding to treat each project as if it were my own “baby” and to immerse myself in the intricate details of each stage, from initial dataset assembly, to visualization, modeling fitting, and simulation. Moreover, I am fortunate to work alongside experienced senior scientists and data scientists who generously share their knowledge and expertise. Learning from them has been invaluable, whether it’s in building the dataset with coding conventions that adheres to rigorous standards or observing the advanced strategies devised by senior scientists to address complex model challenges. I also appreciate the direct access to software support, allowing for smooth progress on model simulation. Most importantly, the collaborative environment of working with “nerdy” colleagues who share a common passion for delivering high-quality scientific work is what motivates me to show up for work every day. 


What is one of your proudest professional accomplishments? 

One of the most memorable stem cell transplant cases that I worked on involved a patient in her early 20s, who was suffering from severe aplastic anemia. Despite facing significant challenges, including complications from bacterial and fungal infections, she bravely underwent a second transplant after failing the first one. There were moments where I doubted if she would pull through. However, through careful medication management and optimization of pharmacokinetics, we were able to support her and achieve a successful transplant. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a young woman being able to continue living the prime years of her life. Now, as I transition to work in drug development, I am constantly reminded of the impact our work can have on patients like her. It fills me with hope to imagine a future where new therapies are approved, potentially eliminating the need for transplants in cases of severe aplastic anemia. This experience serves as a driving force for me to continue striving for advancements in treatments and improving patient outcomes.  


What is an obstacle you’ve had to overcome? 

The decision to transition from clinical pharmacist to a new career path required a leap of faith both financially and emotionally, as I was leaving a stable career that I had long been passionate about. I grappled with uncertainty about whether I would be able to establish myself in a new field with a master’s degree in pharmacometrics.  

Returning to school after working for several years, I worried I might be falling behind my peers in achieving significant life milestones. Returning to school posed its own set of challenges, especially as I found myself surrounded by some of the most talented students who were a decade younger than me. Learning how to code for the first time and revisiting calculus after twelve years was overwhelming, and I remember questioning my life decision when presented with Laplace transformation in the intermediate PK class at University at Buffalo. However, with the support of my peers and mentors, I persevered through these challenges.  

I recognize the potential impact of quantitative pharmacology in addressing clinical dilemmas. As a clinical pharmacist, there were times where I struggled to select the optimal doses for specific patients due to lack of evidence, and I realized that quantitative PKPD modeling could provide invaluable insights into dose-response relationships. Surprisingly, I discovered that my experience as a clinician was an asset in my new role as a clinical pharmacometrician. In many ways, the essence of my job remained unchanged – applying optimal dosing based on PK/PD information, whether in a patient care or drug development setting. This realization affirmed my decision to take a different career path and showed that life indeed comes full circle. 


What traits and/or habits have helped you succeed? 

My ability to think critically and see the bigger picture has helped me progress. Influenced by my residency training, where I had to respond to emergency code, I learned to assess the overall patient situation before delving into specific questions. Rather than immediately finding answers to specific dosing questions from physicians, I learned to prioritize and focus on the most critical cases. After switching to pharmacometrics, while I may not have been the top coder to begin with, my clinical background allowed me to understand the long-term benefits and application of pharmacometrics in improving patient treatment. This perspective helps me navigate obstacles and stay focused on the ultimate goal. 


What would you tell other women considering a career in STEM? 

I still remember being advised against studying engineering because of concerns about hitting a career ceiling in a male-dominated field. However, the reality is quite different. We need more women in science, as we each bring valuable perspectives and insight essential for delivering impactful scientific work. In today’s era of big data, qualitative science is growing exponentially across various fields. The career opportunities and job satisfaction for women in STEM are significant and rewarding.  


Did you have a role model that influenced your decision to work in science?   

My mother has been a significant influence on my decision to work in science. She is a quantitative sociology scientist who has always been passionate about her research and never gave up on her career, even while raising two children. In my culture/social circle, there are certain stereotypical expectations placed on girls, and it’s not always encouraged for women to pursue “too many” higher education degrees, especially after a certain age. However, I am grateful that my mother always believed in me and supported me in finding my own path. 



This is the third installment of our Women in Science blog series. If you’d like to read about other professional women working in modeling and simulation, visit our Resource Center.