New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Jessica Moon

Jessica Moon, PhD, PMP, NORDP Board Member
Jessica Moon, PhD, PMP, NORDP Board Member

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.

New Board Member Cameo: Samarpita Sengupta

Samarpita Sengupta, PhD, NORDP Board Member

Who: Samarpita Sengupta, PhD, Assistant Professor and Director of Research

Where: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Number of Years Working in RD: Seven years

Length of NORDP Membership: Five years

When and how did you enter the field? What kind of research development work do you do?

I came to the United States in 2007 for my PhD. After my PhD, I was almost convinced that the traditional academic route was not meant for me, however, three years into my postdoc I knew that for certain. I started doing informational interviews to find out what career paths aligned with my interests. After several of these, I spoke to someone who ended up being my boss in my first research development job. We had talked about grant writing, and I didn’t know the term research development existed when I was interviewing. I joined as a scientific research writer in the newly formed Neuroscience Research Development (NeRD) office. We created the office from the ground up. Our responsibilities spanned the research cycle from idea generation to grant submission We went from submitting between five and 20 grants a year to over 100 grants per year. We kept that momentum going until 2020 when my boss moved to a different role and I started directing the office. In 2021, in search of career growth, I landed into what I called a RD plus role.

Right now, I serve as the Director of Research in the physician assistant studies program at UT Southwestern. I also have a faculty role which means I get to advise and mentor students as well, but my main focus is creating strategic programs and working with faculty and students to increase research capacity and scholarly output in the areas of education research, quality improvement with the goal of getting people engaged in allied health related clinical research. I also have some administrative responsibilities around maintaining program accreditation.

What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?

When we started the RD office we fell into research development “by accident”. We didn’t have any formal training or a formal path to it. So we decided we wanted to make it better for people for people coming after us so we created a training program in our office where we would allow students, staff and trainees to shadow us for four weeks, eight hours a week using their personal time. This program was called the NeRD associate in training or NeAT program. We would teach them the basics of research development – how to talk to a faculty member, how you create teams, how you edit or refine a proposal, how you create a budget, how you work with sponsored programs. I presented this program at the 2017 NORDP conference which was the first conference where I presented a poster.

At that conference, I attended the Strategic Alliances Committee meeting and Peggy Sundermeyer was looking for someone to volunteer as a liaison between NORDP and the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA). I had volunteered for NPA while a postdoc, so I figured this would be a really good fit for me. I volunteered to be a liaison. My initial term was for two years and then it was extended for two more years. I attended conferences with NPA and had people from NPA come and attend NORDP conferences. The goal was to create a pipeline from postdocs to RD. Not a lot of postdocs know about RD, therefore, there is a rich niche of people we can recruit from. That relationship led to a couple of changes for NORDP as well.  We created the trainee and emeritus memberships in NORDP because we wanted to attract trainees and students to get a foot in the door through NORDP. I worked on this project in collaboration with the then chair of the MSC, Kathy Cataneo. At the NPA conferences I attended, postdocs were curious about RD internships. Through the generosity of NORDP members, we solicited other examples of onboarding programs, combined them with NeAT program’s structure and created a resource that RD offices can take to create their own internship, training or onboarding programs called NROAD to RD. The teams that worked on this project was awarded the NORDP Innovation award this year and I couldn’t be more grateful to have worked with these dedicated individuals.  

With the Member Services Committee I also helped create the Ambassador Program which matched up new conference attendees with seasoned conference attendees so they had at least one point of contact to talk to and ask questions so they wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed at their first conference. I joined the Professional Development Committee and the Mentoring Committee and served as a mentor and a mentee. I’ve been part of the NORDP Certification Task Force. We’re also trying to get an Immigrant Affinity Group off the ground. I have presented at each of the NORDP conferences since 2017 and was part of the inaugural LEAD cohort. I served as co-chair of the Mentoring Committee as well.

What motivated you to run for the NORDP Board?

I have been thinking about the board for a while, but while I had started several projects, I had not led a committee.  Last year I participated in the Lead Program, and I served as the Mentoring Committee co-chair for a year. I have tried to be very intentional about using all my experience volunteering for several different committees so I could know what most committees do and where they stand, so I can be a voice for everyone. This year, I knew that I had the experience to back up any decisions that needed to be made regarding the organization. I think I understood the organization enough, had some ideas of what people wanted from it, what the mission and vision was and could morph into in the future so I would be comfortable being part of making larger decisions.

What are you most excited about as a new NORDP Board member?

I get excited about everything! From the beginning, my work in NORDP has been about creating a path for people who want to do RD but don’t really know about RD. As our organization grows, we need more people to join us, and we need more revenue sources as we grow to keep the organization afloat.

One of the things I am passionate about is to help people make the conscious decision to join RD and not just “fall into” it as I and many others have done. I want to continue the work NORDP has ongoing to making sure academics, funders, and institutional leaders understand what RD is, how it is different from and similar to RA, how it is different from R&D.

I’m also excited about several new NORDP offerings, such as the work being done by the certification task force. If and when this comes to fruition, it would be a really big deal for our organization. I am excited about the work done by all the NORDP committees, putting forth innovative programs and resources. I am excited about the commitment from NORDP leadership and its members on being a forerunner on inclusive excellence. I am excited and humbled to be working with some amazing individuals on the NORDP Board, many of whom have been mentors and personal heroes! Finally, I am incredibly grateful to the NORDP membership who have placed their trust in me and my fellow new Board members and I hope I can help propel our organization forward.

2022 Rising Star Award: Kim Patten

Kim Patten, Rising Star Awardee

Who: Kimberly Patten, Assistant Vice President for Research Development; NORDP Board of Directors, Designated MSI Seat

Where: University of Arizona

Number of years in research development: 17 years total: 8 years in academic research; 4 years in science research management; 5 years in nonprofit research management

Length of NORDP membership: 8 years

What initiative are you the most proud of in your role as a NORDP volunteer?

As a NORDP volunteer the thing I am most proud of is spending time with the Strategic Alliances Committee and working with them to formalize our relationships with sister organizations. From a professional perspective I think the thing I have done and willingly shared in service to both my institution and the profession is trying to help think through career progression in research development and developing these lines of progression. The structure I have developed at the University of Arizona is six different levels within research development, plus an additional five levels of management lines. There are eleven different career progression steps that you could be involved in research development. I’ll admit that implementing these lines is more difficult than creating them, but just having them is a start.

How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

How has it not? The best thing about NORDP is the community and sharing, willingness of individuals to share best practices. I’m reluctant to say that I have come up with anything originally. Instead, it’s a culmination of best practices, digging in deep and talking to people. Then taking the pieces that would fit at my institution. People are so willing to give, share and provide support within this community. That willingness to share has enabled me to think about implementing infrastructure within my institution and how we fit into the larger research development picture.

How did you hear about NORDP and what made you join initially?

I started at the University of Arizona in 2014. The grant funding I had was coming to a close and a friend sent me this job opportunity.

I came into the position under a former NORDP board member, Anne McGuigan, who provided phenomenal mentorship and that connection to NORDP. I became a member of NORDP almost from day one of joining the University of Arizona and attended my first conference in 2015, where like many before me have said, I found my people.

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?

I serve in the mentoring program as both a mentor and a mentee.  I have been paired frequently with people at less resourced institutions and it’s just incredible to me what they can accomplish as a one-person shop. I have also grown an informal mentor network through committee connections. And then there’s the listserv postings; I’ve reached out on more than one occasion based on someone’s job posting or guidance on the listserv. People at NORDP are so kind and willing to help. As a hiring manager, bringing on new talent is one area that I have relied on help through the NORDP network. For example, engaging with postdocs and through the national postdoc association group or looking at faculty spousal hires. These are a couple of the ideas that have come up through NORDP.

Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined

NORDP has certainly grown. It is constantly improving processes and remaining flexible. NORDP is still in a discovery mode. It is still an incredibly welcoming organization and the work done by committees like the Committee on Inclusive Excellence and Member Services is making it an even more welcoming organization. We are at a tipping point for thinking through what services we can provide as an organization for our growing membership. Really there is nowhere to go but up. The bigger and broader the network, the better informed we all are and the more ideas to harness.

What recommendations do you have for members to get more involved with NORDP?

My first recommendation is to sign up for mentorship. One of the most important things that a research development professional and NORDP member can do is expand your network – find someone outside your institution you can throw ideas around with, learn from and grow with. The next one is to think about your strengths and whether you want to continue building and growing them or try something new. It’s not a bad thing to try something new, especially if you’re brand-new to RD. We all fall back on our comfort zone. New experiences can help you network and build collaborations (and this is coming from someone that finds networking incredibly uncomfortable). Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself because NORDP is such a welcoming and open community that you will find a way to contribute regardless of what you decide to do.

I am incredibly humbled at the nomination and to actually receive the award I find it hard to put into words how I feel. I sincerely appreciate this organization and what it has done for me, professionally and personally. I hope I have given back even a percentage of what I have received. To be in the cohort that was selected – these are some of the people that I also look up to, is humbling.

2022 Rising Star Award: Joshua Roney

The NORDP Rising Star Award recognizes individuals for their outstanding, early volunteer contributions to NORDP and strong potential for future contributions to the organization and the profession or the field. 

Joshua Roney, Rising Star Awardee

Who: Joshua Roney, PhD, Associate Director, Research Development, Office of Research

Where: University of Central Florida

Number of years in research development: 11 ½ years

Length of NORDP membership: 9 years

What initiative are you the most proud of in your role as a NORDP volunteer?

I started with the Professional Development (PD) Committee who were looking to transition to a new platform for webinars and other online events. We helped the transition to Zoom to be successful and developed procedures for running web-based events that continue to be utilized and updated as needed. Another initiative I am proud of is the Tools and Tips (“TNT”) talks launched last year – this was a collaborative effort to capture a more informal way to briefly share helpful resources with NORDP members. This has been well received and is now a regular offering through the year.

How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

It has made me more confident as an RD professional and has given me experience in specific areas like planning and delivering engaging workshops. Serving has also allowed me to gain insights and training on some areas that have evolved and grown in our profession (Competitive Intelligence, for example). Being mindful of changing opportunities for RD support and being proactive at my institution with regard to them has helped me to advance in my career and be successful.

How did you hear about NORDP and what made you join initially?

My manager, Jo Smith, encouraged me to join and participate in NORDP. She was passionate about research development and helped to continually strengthen the Research Development office at UCF. She passed that along to me – the philosophy that NORDP is the authority in RD information and a valuable community to be involved in. She wanted me to be an actively involved NORDP member, and I trusted her advice. It has been a rewarding experience.

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP?

I have friends that I have now worked with for years through serving on the PD Committee and connecting and presenting at conferences. I have also been able to collaborate with some of them outside of NORDP through scholarship and grant activities. Connecting with people in PD Committee has been great for me because people join for different reasons. I initially joined PD Committee because I wanted to get promoted from GRA to a full-time employee, which meant for me the start of my career. Others may have joined because they wanted to advance their skillset, expand their office, or strengthen the depth and range of resources available. Because we’re coming from different places, we’re bringing different energy and experience to our group. Working in RD, there may be only a small number of RD professionals at that institution, and I think that may be part of why NORDP is so collaborative. I’ve found that members are extremely willing to share information, resources, advice, and assistance. That spirit is baked into NORDP.

Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined

When I first started in NORDP, everything felt brand new. I’m so glad that the sense of finding new opportunities ahead has been a continual experience while being an involved member. I’ve been happy to see trends in RD workshops and discussions continue to evolve over time, and the growth of the organization has continued to bring more voices into the mix. I’ve also seen exciting developments in RD growing in the production of scholarly works, and it’s nice to see new vision elements periodically noted by NORDP leadership.

What recommendations do you have for members to get more involved with NORDP?

Don’t feel like you have to wait for a good fit opportunity to appear before getting involved. If you have ideas for things, you will likely find people or initiatives that can align with that good idea. Don’t wait to give things a try. If you do that with the intention of connecting with the people you will be working with, then I think you won’t be disappointed.

I’m so grateful to NORDP and the experience of being involved. Where I am in my institution and professionally is intertwined with my positive experience as a member of this organization. My original plan was to get my graduate degree then become a teacher, but I changed plans because I found RD to be a better fit for me. I still have opportunities to teach through things like workshops and mentoring, and there are always new things up ahead to learn and adapt for my institution.