Insights from successful early-career researchers

Read about their scientific motivations, challenges and successes — and about their advice for beginning research careers.

Dr Daniele Di Mascio

Dr Daniele Di Mascio
Sapienza Univerisity
Rome, Italy

Dr Daniele Di Mascio is currently Assistant Professor (Italian academical position: RTD-B) and Consultant at the Department of Maternal and Child Health and Urological Sciences, Sapienza Univerisity of Rome, Italy.

He completed his residency in Ob/Gyn at Sapienza University of Rome in 2021 and in 2019 completed a Research Fellowship at the MFM Division of Thomas Jefferson University, USA supervised by Dr Vincenzo Berghella.

During the ISUOG World Congress 2019, he received the Young Investigator Award - Obstetrics for a multicenter study on the role of prenatal MRI in fetuses with isolated ventriculomegaly.

His clinical and research interests are focused on Maternal and Fetal Medicine and particularly on fetal brain, fetal growth restriction and twin pregnancies.

He is currently the chair of AJOG-MFM Social Media Committee."

Words of Wisdom:

“About 385,000 babies are born each day around the world and we still have to discover so many aspects of maternal and fetal health!

Doing research will mean papers rejected, unfinished projects, tough days but also inspiring networking, meeting new people, being fascinated by opinions and thoughts of everyone you meet on your road!

I promise the game is worth the candle! It’s all about finding your niche and succeeding at it! 

Stay curious, stay passionate!”

Dr Daniele Di Mascio

Jenny Mei, M.D
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Los Angeles, CA

Jenny Mei is a second year Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellow at University of California, Los Angeles. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and went to Yale University for college, where she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. She then attended David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and stayed on for OB/GYN residency. She is thrilled to be completing fellowship at her home institution and looks forward to a rewarding career in the world of MFM. Her research interests include cardio-obstetrics, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and labor management of medically complex patients.  

Words of Wisdom:

Research projects are marathons, not sprints. There are really fun and exciting parts (getting statistics results! presenting abstracts! publishing papers!) but plenty of tedious parts (chart review, literature review, endless rounds of manuscript edits). Every piece is part of the process and makes the journey worthwhile. Perseverance is KEY - it is easy to let abstracts fizzle out after conferences, but actually writing it up into a manuscript is what will make it count. Try working with a diverse spectrum of mentors - you never know who you may click with. Everything happens for a reason, including every person you meet. Someone seemingly random may become your next mentor, research collaboration, or connection to a job. MFM is indeed a small world with a very rewarding career path!

Dr Daniele Di Mascio

Brock E. Polnaszek, MD
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University/Women and Infant’s Hospital of Rhode Island
Providence, Rhode Island

Brock E. Polnaszek, MD is a second year Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellow at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University/Women and Infant’s Hospital of Rhode Island. Brock grew up in rural Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry with Academic and Research Honors. He took time off after his undergraduate studies to pursue his passion for research and endurance races (including an Ironman triathlon) before attending medical school at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He completed residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis. Brock’s research focuses on development of  antepartum and intrapartum evidence-based management strategies to minimize maternal and neonatal morbidity.

He was recently awarded the 2022 Danielle Peress, MD Memorial Fund from the Foundation for Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine for his intrapartum pilot randomized control trial which is currently ongoing.

Words of Wisdom:

Any researcher or physician-scientist will tell you that their success was built on the shoulders of their mentors. I would not be where I am today without the guidance, support, opportunities and tough love from more mentors than I can possibly give credit. I encourage all people, regardless of career, to develop a broad network of people that they can go to for both personal and professional advice. Our field grows smaller the further you advance in your career and you never know when a connection may lead to a new project or collaboration. Mentorship can take many forms, whether through communication on social media or texting, informal dinner and drinks, formal research meetings, or even just late-night conversation during a 24-hour call.

The mentor-mentee relationship is pivotal, not only for success, but also in “failure.” I find myself leaning on my mentors during the many research “failures” that are more common than successes---"failures” such as receiving the non-funded grant notice, the fifth manuscript rejection, or an error uncovered during your data analysis. They help ground and normalize the research process as well as troubleshoot next steps. Now having said this, I would like to give a special shout out to some of my past and current research mentors, Drs. Wan-Ju Li, Amy Kind, Andrew Gilmore-Bykovski, Nandini Raghuraman, Alison Cahill, Dwight Rouse, Adam Lewkowitz, Emily Miller and Methodius Tuuli. Thank you for pushing and supporting me to do so much more than I ever thought possible. I leave you will my favorite Ted Lasso quote from the one and only Leslie Higgins: “A good mentor hopes you will move on. A great mentor knows you will.”

Dr Daniele Di Mascio

Advaita Punjala-Patel, MD
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptis
Winston Salem, NC

Advaita Punjala-Patel is a second year Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellow at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston Salem, NC. She grew up in North Carolina and went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology. She then attended Virginia Commonwealth University for medical school and fell in love with the field of obstetrics and gynecology. She completed her residency training at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, GA and is excited to be back home in North Carolina for fellowship. Her passion for obstetrics, specifically high risk maternal-fetal care, started in Georgia during her residency training where she learned first-hand how the lack of access for rural and low socioeconomic groups  significantly increased maternal mortality and morbidity. She is looking forward to a rewarding career  in maternal-fetal medicine where she can help combat health disparities and promote advocacy. As a new mother herself, Advaita truly feels like the fourth trimester of pregnancy is the most important trimester as it is a time where mothers are lost to follow up leading to preventable detrimental maternal health outcomes. Her research interests include promoting the fourth trimester, novel approaches to postpartum pain management, maternal sleep and its impact on fetal outcomes, and genetics.  

Words of Wisdom:

When you find a passion, research becomes an adventure. If you are truly passionate about a project and the idea behind a project, you will do everything in your power to finish the project so that you can see the end results. With hardwork, determination, and perseverance you can truly accomplish anything. I came from a background of very limited mentorship in the field of obstetrics, but I learned that good mentors are everywhere if we only seek them. Send those emails to everyone you think could be an asset in helping you grow. One of those emails will click, and you will find those lifelong mentors who can help you grow into that incredible clinical researcher and physician. I'm fortunate to have found some of the best mentors now, not only in the field of MFM (as I feel so blessed to be surrounded by the smartest individuals daily!) but also in other adjacent fields like sleep medicine and obstetric anesthesia because of this perseverance.