ECU postdoc named to national position

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) has announced that East Carolina University postdoctoral scholar Andrea Pereyra will serve as an international officer for the association.

Pereyra, a physiology postdoc, is just the second ECU representative to serve on an NPA committee, according to ECU’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

ECU postdoctoral scholar Andrea Pereyra was named an international officer to the National Postdoctoral Association, becoming just the second Pirate postdoc to serve on a NPA committee. (Contributed photo)

As an international officer, Pereyra will assist in the development and maintenance of NPA resources for international postdocs; advocate for the interest of international postdoc training in the United States; maintain and grow the association’s relationships with national organizations and federal agencies; monitor international concerns for the postdoctoral community; and address public inquiries about the NPA’s policies and practices for international postdocs.

Pereyra is one of two postdocs nationwide who will advise NPA’s board of directors, staff and committees about international issues.

“This is an honor that comes with a tremendous responsibility since about 60% of the current postdocs in the country are from international origin,” Pereyra said. “This constitutes a very diverse community spread across a very big country, so we need to maximize efforts to serve the specific needs it might have.”

During her time at ECU, Pereyra has helped expand ECU’s international postdoc resources, including the development of “road map” guidelines for international scholars seeking postdoc opportunities at the university.

Pereyra said her goal is to provide more resources and assistance to international postdocs at small universities.

“Personally, I would like to increase representation for, and encourage participation from, international postdocs working at small universities and colleges,” Pereyra said. “Being an international scholar in a small college town poses great benefits, but also different challenges than the ones you would encounter in a larger institution with hundreds or thousands of other foreign peers.

“The efforts and actions aimed at providing these scholars with a high-quality, effective toolbox to further advance their research and careers must be carefully customized. I believe I can contribute to this and help the NPA serve the international postdoctoral community of both large and small institutions.”

Of ECU’s current 29 postdocs, 16 are international. Pereyra, who earned her medical and doctorate degrees from the Universidad Nacional de La Plata in Argentina, is mentored by physiology assistant professor Jessica Ellis.

Postdoctoral scholars hold temporary research positions with the university. Postdocs have completed their doctoral programs but continue to receive training under research faculty before moving on to careers in academia or industry.

“The National Postdoctoral Association has been instrumental in improving the quality of the postdoctoral training experience and relies on postdoc representatives from across the country,” said Kathryn Verbanac, assistant vice chancellor for research development and advancement, and director of postdoctoral affairs. “Andrea has been a great asset on our ECU postdoc council and her selection for this important position highlights our university. Most importantly, it will alert us to additional resources to assist our international scholars.”

Publication highlight, recent funding

Pereyra’s appointment to the NPA’s international officer position comes a year after publication of a study led by the Brody School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology and the East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute.

Pereyra was a contributing author on the study “Tissue-specific characterization of mitochondrial branched-chain keto acid oxidation using a multiplexed assay platform” published in the May 2019 edition of the Biomedical Journal. Pereyra joined the project after participating in a graduate course led by assistant professor Kelsey Fisher-Wellman in which she learned the fundamentals of high-resolution mitochondrial respirometry.

Additionally, Ellis’s lab recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to support its research project on lipid metabolism in skeletal muscle. Pereyra contributed significantly to the preliminary data submitted in the proposal.