People Research

Q&A with clinical research specialist Sara Kukuljan

To Sara Kukuljan, Halloween is serious business.

Sara Kukuljan serves as manager of the division of clinical research for the Department of Otolaryngology. Formerly a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, she now helps guide our clinical researchers through the complex environment of human subjects research.

How long have you been at Washington University?

I started at WashU in 2003 as a research coordinator in the Center for Clinical Studies. I have been with the Department of Otolaryngology since 2010 where I now serve as division manager for clinical research. It was in my nursing role at St. Louis Children’s Hospital that I became interested in human research.

What are your duties/roles here?

Sara wins the family chili cook-off every year!

My clinical background certainly helped guide my professional development in human research and enabled an easier transition into clinical research. I help researchers overcome all those obstacles related to human subjects: study design, institutional review board (IRB) applications, HIPAA concerns, etc.

What do you like most about your work here?

I am a strong advocate for education, and in clinical research I still have that opportunity whether it be with patients, participants, trainees, or seasoned investigators.  Helping others learn and understand, solving problems, and project completion are big motivators for me.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

If I am not working on my house projects, you can find me traveling, deep sea fishing, listening to live music, and catching up with friends.

Do you have a favorite book, movie, or quote?

I love to read and it’s not uncommon to see me with five different books I’m reading all at the same time – I like to have options.

Sara in face mask
Sara dons a face mask protection from construction dust.

What would most surprise your colleagues to learn about you?

Here’s a short list of things that might surprise others:

  • I am an avid do-it-yourself-er. I am currently renovating my home and doing the majority of the work myself!
  • I have won our family chili cook-off every year since 2005 – I mean yum, who doesn’t love a good chili?
  • I love Halloween and dress in costume every year.  I keep the costume a surprise until the big reveal that day.
  • I started a business and a foundation to make purpose out of a family tragedy and to promote mental health awareness. The foundation Maggie’s Laughter, Inc. will provide financial support to programs promoting mental health awareness and programs delivering mental health services to school aged children.