The myRESEARCHnavigators team helps scientists navigate the research landscape

Charting a path to the treasure of resources and connections

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
-Lewis Carroll


When you are starting a new endeavor in research, you have your ways of going about it. There are literature search tools, of course. There are circles of colleagues, collaborators, mentors, and administrative resources. The Duke researcher is generally savvy enough to chart their course through the seven seas of research planning. But for many, especially those newer to Duke, this can be a challenge. And if it doesn’t seem like a challenge to a seasoned academic sailor like you, imagine that you are embarking on a completely new research endeavor, drastically different from anything you have done before, in a completely new field in a completely new institution, with new people. Where would you start? Who would you ask for advice?

myRESEARCHnavigators — a service offered by the Duke Office for Research Initiatives (DORI) and led by Dr. Sunita Patil — helps researchers identify relevant resources, connect with experts, and understand processes and best practices for research at Duke. The team of navigators offers onboarding sessions for new investigators (or those who want a refresher), and a hotline of consultants who are available on demand to anyone at Duke who needs help at any stage of their careers. Inquiries range widely from research policy and requirement guides to helping locate potential collaborators, applying for funding, and much more. Often the questions are of the desperate “I have no idea who to even ask about this.” The myRESEARCHnavigators team now includes six people with complimentary backgrounds who know the Duke research and administrative structure inside out, constantly keep up with the changes, and are ready to go the extra mile to connect a given researcher to people and resources they might need within and outside of Duke.

Sunita has been leading and managing the myRESEARCHnavigators team since 2017. Since the inception of the service, the navigators have answered over 1660 questions (about 40 per month) and completed over 740 onboarding sessions; Sunita has performed a good 2/3 of those. Feedback of her work is raving: “Sunita Patil is never stumped! I am consistently impressed by how easy and how helpful the myRESEARCHnavigators service is!” “I think this is a wonderful program - I am not a big researcher and this orientation helped me realize that there is great support that will be straightforward to access when I want to do a small project or study. I was on faculty at another institution for 13 years and it was so difficult to navigate their system that I stopped doing projects altogether. Thank you!”

Sunita received her PhD in biology in Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India. The path to her current position included extensive clinical research in dermatology, endocrinology, physiology, infectious diseases, work as a clinical research coordinator, and undergraduate and graduate teaching.  “I find this work very, very rewarding,” she says.  “I am personally not involved in doing direct research and publishing papers anymore, but I am a part of all the research that goes on at Duke through this work — and this is very satisfying to know.” Outside of work, Sunita enjoys navigating the outdoors, and is passionate about bird and bear watching. Consider asking her about local hiking trails — she, without a doubt, will advise with the passion and professionalism of a great navigator.