Conference Cameo: Hilda McMackin

#NORDP2019 starts Monday, April 29, in Providence, RI. Keep checking back here at the blog and on our Twitter feed (@NORDP_official) for conference updates. Register at

Who: Hilda McMackin, Director of Research Development and Support
Where: Vanderbilt University
Number of years in research development: 5
Length of NORDP membership: 2 years
Number of NORDP conferences attended: 2
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A psychic. I was inspired by Commander Deanna Troi from Star Trek.

McMackin2I was involved in research development before I knew it was a field.  I worked as a lab manager in my first job after getting my PhD and found out about research administration from an internal training program.  After looking for positions in research administration, I was recruited into the School of Engineering to work on an NSF Engineering Research Center proposal and then became the grants manager in the largest engineering research institute on campus.  I heard about research development when a new Vice Provost for Research started at Vanderbilt and was hiring for a position to start a dedicated research development program at Vanderbilt.  I was immediately hooked when I heard of the opportunity, and my grants management experience with large proposals luckily made me a strong candidate.

I am the Director of Research Development and Support, and I founded this office at Vanderbilt, growing from a staff of 1 to 5 people.  My office oversees some services that support research compliance (export controls) in addition to research development.  Our research development programs focus on proposal support for strategic opportunities, managing limited submission opportunities, relationship building with sponsors, and providing workshops for faculty to learn best practices for seeking funding or applying to certain agencies.  We focus specifically on federal agencies and cover all 10 schools and colleges at Vanderbilt, including arts & sciences, engineering, basic sciences, education, and nursing.

I joined the Mentoring Committee at my first NORDP conference without ever having participated in the mentoring program.  It has been a great way to connect with more of the RD community as well as hone some professional development skills.  I presented my first webinar with them last summer and will be co-presenting some sessions at this year’s conference.

At my first NORDP conference I was taken aback by how welcoming the NORDP community is compared to other professional conferences I’ve attended.  I recommend identifying a few people that do work you’re interested in or have experience that you want to learn more about.  Take note of who is presenting sessions that spark interest in you and make a point of connecting with them at the networking events.  I attended a workshop my first conference and ended up seeking out one of the presenters that I was particularly impressed by.  I followed up with her after the conference and asked if she’d mentor me and this past year we participated in the mentoring program as a self-matched pair.  Never be afraid to advocate for yourself!

Visit the NORDP Store online now through March 15! 

We hope to see you at the Conference, which will be held April 29 – May 1, 2019, at the Omni Providence Hotel in Providence, RI. For more information about the conference program or to register, visit Follow @NORDP_official on Twitter for all the latest #NORDP2019 updates.

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

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