Who: Jessica Moon, PhD, PMP. Executive Director, Stanford Aging and Ethnogeriatrics Research Center
Where: Stanford University
Number of Years Working in RD: Six years
Length of NORDP Membership: Five years
When and how did you enter the field? What kind of research development work do you do?
My daughter was three years old when I started graduate school at the University of Vermont, and I realized quickly that I did not want to pursue a tenure-track faculty position. I had worked for several years as a writing center consultant for undergraduates, grad students, and postdocs, and I thought perhaps my scientific and writing consultation backgrounds would be an effective combination. Another tipoff was that I really enjoyed my phase 2 qualifying exam—i.e., writing an NIH grant. I happened to see a presentation by Jeralyn Haraldsen (now the Director of Research Development at UVM) about the newly minted research development office. I reached out to Jeralyn—“Your work sounds really interesting! I’d love to hear more about your background and the RD field. Would you be willing to get coffee?” She introduced me to NORDP, and we carpooled down to my first Northeast regional meeting in Amherst, MA. The whole world opened up from there so to speak.
My goal was to position myself for an RD job straight out of graduate school. There’s not a standard career path or ladder into RD (I recently heard someone refer to it as a “climbing wall”). The common thread from talking to NORDP members was scientific editing experience, so I started by diversifying my editing portfolio. I became a contract scientific editor for Cactus Communications, where I edited journal articles, scientific protocols, responses to reviewers, and other works for university researchers and drug companies across the biomedical and chemical sciences. About a year later, I started a small freelance business editing manuscripts and grant proposals. Basically, I fit in extra editing jobs wherever I could—between experiments, late in the evening, Christmas break…This gave me some hardcore copyediting experience that complemented the consultation and writing pedagogy work at the writing center.
My first research development job out of graduate school was at the University of Arizona in Kim Patten’s office as a Research Development Associate for the biomedical sciences. Jamie Boehmer (a Senior RD Associate at the time) took me under her wing and identified opportunities for me to network across campus. As a former VA Program Officer, she has a wealth of knowledge, and I learned a lot from her. In my two years there, my portfolio grew to include faculty from across the five health sciences colleges, many more types of NIH proposals, and other funders (e.g., HRSA, CDC, foundations).
Now, as Executive Director, I oversee all aspects of the SAGE Center. I refer to my role as RD+, because it encompasses a broad range of research development activities—advising on funding strategy, grant writing/editing, and faculty development, as well as things like program management and evaluation, research compliance, budgets, and scientific event planning. I am also the program officer for our pilot award program, and mentor all SAGE junior faculty and postdocs. One thing that is unique from my prior position at UArizona is that I do actual grant writing and intellectually contribute to the design and implementation of projects and programs. Hence, the scope and my view of RD has grown since coming to Stanford.
What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?
As mentioned above, I started engaging with NORDP via the Northeast regional meetings and attended my first NORDP conference in 2017. I moved to Tucson, AZ shortly after graduating. My supervisor at the University of Arizona, Kim Patten, is a strong advocate of NORDP and encourages everyone in her unit to be engaged. My first volunteer activity at the national-level was the Affiliated Medical Centers special interest group. As a member of the inaugural leadership team, I helped shepherd AMC through its development into an affinity group. My NORDP mentor encouraged me to explore other committees. In 2021, I joined the Professional Development Committee, Committee on Inclusive Excellence, and Mentoring Committee with the thought that I could try them and see what I liked the best—I’m still a member on all.
What motivated you to run for the NORDP Board?
The encouragement from my NORDP mentor was a big part of it. I enjoy the strategic planning aspects of my work at Stanford and looking at things from a big picture/organizational systems standpoint—my role on the NORDP Board provides this from the non-profit perspective. I also wanted to give back to NORDP, because it has played such an integral role in helping me find and obtain RD positions after grad school. I learned about both of my jobs at UArizona and Stanford through NORDP connections. NORDP’s members are a wealth of information and their warmth and willingness to share ideas is remarkable and wonderful. For all those reasons, I was excited (and a bit intimidated) to run for the Board. I wanted the experience of strategic planning and understanding things from that lens while contributing to the good of the organization.
What are you most excited about as a new NORDP Board member?
It’s a fantastic group. I have attended three board meetings so far and have been amazed and energized by the team dynamic—everyone takes their duty of care seriously, meaning that discussion and deliberation is very thoughtful and open. I am introverted and have a hard time inserting myself into conversations, because I second guess that what I want to say will be helpful. There is conscious effort by Board members to invite everyone’s input, so I am excited to work with this really awesome group. I’m also excited because NORDP is in this transition period between thinking of ourselves as a smaller organization to a larger and more mature organization…Which I guess means we are in the awkward teen phase. I think part of that has to do with how quickly our membership has expanded—yay us! But we are also experiencing some growing pains, and the Board’s goal is to help NORDP work through that.