For Marina Zelivyanskaya, the process is often as rewarding as the finished product.
In October, Zelivyanskaya’s exceptional ability to help research labs maintain their safety protocols was recognized with fall’s Office for Research STAR Leadership Award. As a biological safety specialist in the Office for Research Safety, Zelivyanskaya acts as a liaison between her office, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), and the Center for Comparative Medicine (CCM). That role can find her conducting field consultations, researching hazardous agents, or helping to establish a new system that ensures a safe working environment for personnel involved in the Animal Care and Use Program.
“'Marina is always more than willing to help everyone who reaches out to her, even putting her own work aside to help others with their questions and concerns,'” said Jay Walsh, vice president for research, reading from Zelivyanskaya’s official nomination. “'Marina always has a smile and she doesn't allow her workload to get in the way of that.'”
Zelivyanskaya joined Northwestern 14 years ago as a research associate in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry; soon after, she became a lab manager for Lonnie Shea, chemical and biological engineering.
“My time in Professor Shea’s lab is actually what sparked my interest in research safety,” says Zelivyanskaya, who in 2015 graduated from Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies with a Master Science in Regulatory Compliance degree. “As a lab manager, I was able to educate students and work closely with Research Safety, making the transition to that office an easy one.”
Zelivyanskaya’s research has included work on biomaterial scaffolds for regenerative medicine applications. She was recently promoted to research assistant professor in the Department of Pathology, which will allow her to apply for her own research funding in the future.
Zelivyanskaya graduated from the Moscow State Academy of Veterinary Medicine in 1986 and became a doctor of veterinary medicine with a specialization in biochemistry before coming to the United States in 1997. She completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Professor Howard Gendelman Center for Neurobiology and Neurodegenerative Disorders. There she worked on a diverse set of projects, including researching HIV drug efficacy and immune brain cell migration.
“The first time I visited Chicago I fell in love with this city and I finally got an opportunity to move here with my family in 2003,” she says. “My work today ensures that all safety aspects are properly addressed in animal study protocols.”
To accomplish this, Zelivyanskaya assists researchers through various communications and field consultations to provide technical assistance, literature search help, data collection, and analysis/dose calculation information for hazardous or potentially hazardous chemical and biological agents. Her duties also include responding to a variety of Research Safety-related questions and concerns, such as waste management practices, personal protective equipment requirements, chemical storage and inventory control, and life safety issues.
Zelivyanskaya’s OR STAR nomination highlighted a project with Andrea Hall, ORS director, to assist the IACUC by evaluating risk assessment processes and providing safety guidelines on how to handle hazardous agents. Zelivyanskaya and Hall collaborated with CCM veterinarians Stephen Levin and Nicolette Zielinski-Mozny to develop safety guidelines for hazardous agents, guidelines that now are part of IACUC’s Operational Procedure Matrix.
“I could not do my work alone and I am grateful for the support of Michael Blayney, Research Safety executive director; Andrea Hall; and all of my coworkers,” says Zelivyanskaya. “We have a great team, and they’ve helped me learn that one of the most important qualities for those working in safety is to always be kind.”
Zelivyanskaya is a member of the Association of Northwestern University Women and the Woman Faculty Organization at the Feinberg School of Medicine. Both organizations are committed to promoting women in all levels of their careers, helping to build a network and promote efforts throughout Northwestern to nurture a community rich in diversity.
The OR STAR program recognizes employees within the Office for Research who demonstrate leadership and support the office's goals to achieve excellence. Nominees reflect the University’s values and promote a workplace culture that embraces collegiality, communication, compliance, customer focus, efficiency, and planning. The OR STAR Award includes a $300 cash prize.