Ragon Institute Women Make a Difference: Kristen Massimine

Date: April 4, 2022 By: Jacquelyn Clermont

Executive Director Kristen Massimine worked as a theatrical lighting designer throughout her formative years. Now, she uses a theater analogy to describe the importance of administration and operations at the Ragon Institute.

“The audience comes to a play to see the actors,” she says, “but the actors need to be illuminated to support the story; no one watches the actors in the dark. The behind-the-scenes work that no one sees is essential.”

Similarly, she describes the team she helps lead – IT, grants administration, regulatory compliance, facilities management, internal communications, human resources and education/outreach – as “behind-the-scenes people” for researchers at the front and center of the Ragon’s main stage.

The role suits this many-faceted female force of one, who, after earning a PhD in pharmacology from Yale, has managed to build a career that combines her work behind the bench, her stint managing a bar, her work as a healthcare management consultant and her years on the Mass General Network Development team helping to establish collaborations with external organizations.

Photo provided by Kristen Massimine

Massimine describes her current position, which she assumed in December, as “the wonderful confluence of all her past experiences.”

And she has done many things, which, including stage lighting, seem unrelated to science or even administration.

She is in fact a master at discovering synergies. As a budding scientist at Yale, she created a collaboration between a lab in her home department of Pharmacology and another department, allowing her to study under Yale’s chief of Infectious Diseases.  

Was it hard for her as a woman in science?

“Let’s be honest – the struggle was REAL, but not because I was a woman – just because my situation was really difficult,” she says, admitting she has been fortunate in earning trust for new ideas. “I forged ahead, made my own path and made the difficult situation have a positive outcome.”

On a personal level, Massimine is a strong practitioner of resilience, belief in oneself and not being afraid to speak up and out.

“Throughout my life I think people have doubted my capabilities,” she says, “so I just prove them wrong.”

Her career, like a puzzle, has taken shape one piece at a time, with seemingly unrelated pieces creating a cohesive picture. Holding everything together is a value system based on community, service and a desire to make an impact in the world and on the lives of others.

She speaks frequently of mission – believing in and working toward something greater than oneself. So she is happy to play a role in the Ragon’s mission to harness the immune system to prevent and cure human disease.

And this she approaches with the objectivity and humility of a true scientist, using research, testing hypotheses and measuring success.

Her goal at the Ragon is to move the organization forward with input from its employees to ensure that they are adequately supported and empowered to do their jobs.

“I don’t presume to know the answers,” she says. “I think the people here have the answers.”

Her job is to find these answers and build on them. She will find the synergies and bring people together to work toward a common mission and with a common sense of pride.

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