Erik Nagaoka

Year of Graduation: 2013

Major(s): History

Current Position: Investigator , U.S. Food and Drug Administration


Please give a brief description of your current position As an investigator with FDA, I work to ensure the public health by conducting inspections of our domestic facilities and also protecting the port through import operations. Typical domestic assignments include inspections of food, medical device and drug companies and making sure they adhere to good manufacturing processes. Imports involves screening what comes into the country and conducting thorough examinations of containers at the port with other law enforcement agencies.

What path did you follow to get to this point? FDA investigations require either a scientific degree or a bachelor's degree with 30 college units in the science field. I decided to take the latter option.  Thus, I decided to major in History while taking Biology, Chemistry and Nutrition courses on the side to fulfill the requirement.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career? I think the most important aspect is to know what the educational requirements are for the position you are looking at. It is certainly possible to major in a variety of areas and still meet the scientific requirements. Use this time in college to get the necessary courses accomplished so that you won't have to take additional ones once you graduate. 

What skills are important in your field? Critical thinking, research, writing, communication skills, people skills, good detective skills, thinking outside the box, diplomacy, tact, leadership and finally teamwork because you will be working with other law enforcement agencies (i.e. CBP, USDA, FBI)

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job? Being able to protect individuals and their families from harmful products is very satisfying. Lets face it, not everyone in industry has honest intentions and criminal actions sometimes occur. On the flip side, sometimes bad things can slip by even the most honest of individuals and pose a threat to consumer health. All in all, it is my job to make sure that the "bad" product stays off the market so that people can stay safe and not become victims to adulterated or misbranded products.

Most challenging? The most challenging aspect is interacting with uncooperative and sometimes hostile industries. For example, you go into a food facility and it is an absolute mess and their management is totally rude and they follow you around with a camera recording everything that you do and then posting it on YouTube. Those days are tough, but you have to maintain composure, execute good people skills and be firm. Remember, you are the one in control and you are the one given authority to conduct regulatory action. 

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career? Honestly, regardless of what career you want to go into, the best advice I can give anyone is to be involved. There are a multitude of activities on campus that you can partake in. Join a club, try volunteering with a church, join a sports/intramural team, form a band, go to shows or meetings on campus, take a work-study job, join Senate, and most importantly, study abroad. Take advantage of all the different college activities that you can because it will pay off in the long run. 

(March 2016)