Peter Caravan

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Co-Director, Institute for Innovation in Imaging and Associate Professor of Radiology
Bay Roberts, Canada
Boston, United States of America
Aqueous Solution Studies of Multidentate Ligands

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

I lead a research group in radiology at a medical school. My group's research is focused on the development of new probe molecules that are used in human clinical imaging. These probes are used to detect disease, to guide treatment decisions, to stage disease, and to monitor how well treatment is working. I mentor graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty. I lead an institute that is focused on translating new innovations in radiological research into clinical trials, clinical adoption, and commercialization.

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

My graduate degree was in chemistry and about half of my research still involves chemistry. We synthesize new chemical compounds and use advanced instrumentation to analyze those compounds and their behavior in the body. Besides my practical training, it is the ability to solve problems that I utilize daily. Graduate school taught me how to approach a problem, formulate a hypothesis, and design experiments to test that hypothesis. I also had a great mentor in Chris Orvig, and he positively impacted my own management and mentoring philosophy.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

The best part of my job is being able to start from an idea, then create a hypothesis and test it and, if it is working, to advance it all the way to the point that we begin to positively affect patient care. This takes a multidisciplinary team of scientists and clinicians, and I am fortunate at Massachusetts General Hospital to be surrounded by amazing colleagues who can make these innovations possible.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

No, in graduate school I thought I would pursue a career as a Chemistry Professor at a PhD granting institution. During my post-doctoral fellowship I became interested in industrial, biopharmaceutical research. This led to my first job as a scientist at Epix Medical, a now defunct biotech in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My work at Epix broadened my skillset and also my perspective. However, I retained an interest in academic research and was fortunate to have been recruited to start a lab at the MGH in 2007.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

The primary motivation for graduate studies at UBC was the presence there of Chris Orvig who was a pioneer in the field of medicinal inorganic chemistry. I was very interested in the potential for metal-containing molecules to be used for medicinal applications. Chris was, and still is, a world leader in this field.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

The opportunities to pursue my interests and the lasting friendships that I made with other students and post-docs there.

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

Finding good mentors is important. I've tried to create a network of senior colleagues that I can call for advice. I try to pay that forward by mentoring others, both formally and informally.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

To have an open mind to opportunity and to follow your interests.


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