The Transition from Postdoc to Research Development: Rebecca Terns

The following is part of a limited blog series from the Strategic Alliances Committee highlighting NORDP members who have transitioned from postdoctoral positions to careers in research development.

Terns
Rebecca Terns, Proposal Enhancement Officer, Office of the Vice President for Research, University of Georgia

Describe your work in research development (RD): I work in the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Georgia. My responsibility is to help investigators across campus develop strong, successful research proposals. I facilitate large, complex proposals including those involving multiple investigators, multiple institutions, and multiple disciplines. I help investigators (both individuals and teams) assess research plans and effectively communicate critical points. I also organize and present programs to help investigators identify funding sources, understand the proposal evaluation process, and improve grant-writing skills.

Describe your postdoc work: In my postdoctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I identified molecular and genetic factors critical for epidermal development in C. elegans. C. elegans and Madison are wonderful!

Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: Following my postdoctoral work, I co-directed a large research group in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Georgia. We made significant contributions to the fields of small RNA biology, telomerase and cancer, and CRISPR-Cas biology. I obtained extensive experience in scientific analysis and funding, project management, and collaborative research development and writing. I developed and taught graduate-level courses on effective science communication. I developed a strong interest in extending the impact of my work across a broader landscape.

Describe the benefits your postdoc work provides to your skill set related to RD: During the first weeks of my postdoc, I immersed myself in a brand-new research field and wrote an NIH fellowship proposal that funded my postdoctoral studies. My enjoyment of that experience is recapitulated regularly in the work that I now do in university research development. The scientific knowledge base and analytical thinking that I developed during my postdoctoral work and subsequent years is also essential to my effectiveness.

What words of wisdom do you have for postdocs who might consider an RD career? Effective writing is a key skill in research development. All of the great writers that I meet say that writing is a struggle for them at times – that feeling does not mean that you are not a skilled writer.

What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? Without a doubt, it is the extent of the appreciation of the investigators with whom I work!

Why do you think RD is a good career choice? It is a great career choice for scientists with particular aptitudes that complement their scientific training and experience (e.g. big picture focus, project management, collaboration, effective communication). Beyond your postdoc, experience in a faculty position is helpful to develop valuable broader perspectives.

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