Heather Gilletti Frost

Director of Clinical Trial Solutions Operations, Pfizer

BS 1999

Howell Group

At times I struggled a great deal with balancing all of my work and activities but I found [Dr. Howell] very grounding. Working in her lab was a highlight of my undergrad career.

Additional degrees & licenses received

Lean Sigma Black Belt

AIM Accreditation

What is your current (or most recent) job, what does a typical day look like, and how did UConn prepare you for this role?

I am the Operations Lead for a group called Clinical Trials Solutions in the Clinical Development space. Our group manages all the systems and shepherds the data that are needed to run a clinical trial. In my role, I am in charge of governance and operations for the team. I also own two of the systems that reside within the group – the electronic Investigator Site File (eISF) and Shared Investigator Platform Document Exchange (SIP DocX). My daily activities mainly revolve around running the two systems. To run a system you first have to implement it (gather business and end user requirements, design and build the system, and then implement). Beyond that you keep the system running in ‘business as usual’ (BAU) mode, help solve issues, and plan for enhancements. Other parts of my day revolve around improving the operations of the entire group. That might be implementing continuous improvements, running governance team meetings, or bringing in new hires.

Tell us about your experience as a Chemistry student at UConn.

In Dr. Howell’s research group I worked on 2-methylene oxetanes. My project revolved around the reductive ring opening of and electrophilic addition to these oxetanes. In fact, I have my undergraduate thesis sitting on my book shelf as I type this! At UConn I was part of student advisory council for ACS. I also was a varsity member of the women’s crew team.

Can you tell us about your experience post-graduation?

Right after graduation, I began working at Pfizer. I worked in Process Chemistry, beginning in the prep lab. The Prep Lab was where we began scale up of drug so that we could continue to scale for different needs like clinical trials, formulations or other needs. After working in the prep lab I moved to the part of the  process chemistry group, where we would take chemistry from the medicinal chemists and try to improve upon it, by making the synthetic route shorter, use cheaper raw materials, alter solvents or reagents for better yields, etc. Even though I was a young chemist, all of this was very fulfilling. During my time, I made a drug for a single cancer patient (compassionate use program) with my own hands until they didn’t need it any more.  At least in the annuls of Pfizer building 156A, floor 3, I have a ligand named after me (‘Heather-Phos’), I learned a ton and made some of the best friends of my life. Unfortunately during my time, I started to get sensitized to chemicals, so I had to look for other avenues of work at Pfizer. I moved to Medicinal Chemistry, where I worked as an outsourcing lead. In this position, we would work with other companies to help make singletons and analogs using tried and true chemistry routes, while our Pfizer scientists worked on the more difficult syntheses. During that time I became a lean six sigma black belt in continuous improvement and AIM (accelerating implementation methodology) certified. This is what has led me to my current position, which I enjoy very much.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to current students?

I’m sure current students, beyond the rigor of academics, are struggling due to COVID. These are crazy times and I’m sure they, like me, would be perfectly happy to no longer be part of significant events in our history! Putting that aside (but holy cow!) I’d like to leave them with a favorite quote of mine by Winston Churchill – “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Heather Gilletti Frost
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