Academic Medicine Member Cameo: Elaine Lee

Who: Elaine Lee Ph. D, Proposal Development Grant Strategist
Where: Boston University School of Medicine
Number of Years in RD: 2.5
Length of NORDP Membership: 2

What’s your history in RD? When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?Elaine Lee headshot-bw-1024x1024.png

After I finished my Ph.D. and postdoc in Biomedical Engineering, I began looking for traditional academic research professor jobs. During the course of my search, I realized I did not enjoy the repetitiveness of research and I needed more frequent and concrete deadlines. In undergrad, I had matriculated as an English major and worked at a scientific publications department at a hospital, so I started looking for jobs that married the two fields, like scientific editing, and ran across some consulting work and positions for grant writing. I have always enjoyed the idea generation aspect of research, and I am glad to have found a way to help people tell their own stories related to their research ideas.

I started at the Boston University School of Medicine in 2017 and currently serve as the Grant Strategist, assisting faculty with proposal development. I help new faculty, particularly ones for who English is not a first language. I assist them in shaping and crafting their scientific narratives as well as filling in logic gaps in their proposals.

What makes working at an academic medicine institution unique?

We work with clinicians who have to bring in funds from seeing patients in addition to their research responsibilities. As a result, we compete for their time to dedicate to research. They want to do things in a particular way according to a particular formula because that is the way they have been trained and have always done things, but research doesn’t follow a linear path. Many of them also have not formally been trained in how to formulate hypotheses. They have ideas about what they want to do, but they struggle with trying to scientifically justify and explain why it is necessary to research the problem and how they will perform a study or experimental design.

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

I joined NORDP prior to the 2018 conference and shortly thereafter learned about and joined the Academic Medicine Committee led by Heather McIntosh. I also joined the Phase II NROAD initiative led by Samar Sengupta this past year.

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

I have engaged with many colleagues throughout the Midwest and West Coast as a result of my involvement with NORDP. Joanna Downer has been a lifeline for me and she has shared her perspective on how to deal with challenges that I have faced, especially those unique to medical schools. I have also forged strong bonds with Heather McIntosh and Krista Kezbers through the Academic Medicine Committee’s efforts.

How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

NORDP has given me a great deal of confidence as I have learned that many of us are having similar experiences as we forge a path through this new field. It has provided me a way to get instant feedback from RD professionals going through the same struggles. It has also been nice to be able to crowdsource materials like the NROAD guide created by Samar. I hope to be able to use that as groundwork to expand our operation here at Boston University.

How do you see that NORDP functions as a resource for RD professionals coming from academic medicine contexts?

We work with a population that is very checklist minded. NORDP can provide guidance on how to help faculty without doing all of the work for them. It can also help you to determine when to let them face things without you and move beyond hand holding. NORDP can also help you strategize how to involve your higher ups to get their buy in when you are pitching your plans to your home institution.

What recommendations do you have for members – particularly RDPs working in an academic medicine setting — to get more involved with NORDP?

I would say to find something that aligns with your duties and jump in! My committee involvement has truly helped me learn my role in academic medicine and allowed me to now share my experience to help others. The interactions with like-minded people who  know what you are going through has been extremely helpful. I encourage you to check out the Academic Medicine Special Interest group to see if it might work for you!

The Academic Medicine Special Interest Group was created in 2018 with the goal of providing resources and professional development opportunities for research development professionals (RDPs) working with clinician-researchers/educators in an academic medicine or affiliated medical center setting. Often times, RDPs working with clinical faculty face unique challenges including working with researchers who have less formal research training and less protected time to conduct research. With this in mind, our group meets monthly via Zoom to discuss the challenges and successes we face working in this research environment. If you are interested in joining our group, please contact Heather McIntosh at You can also join our Circle, Academic Medicine/Affiliated Medical Center.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

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.

A Message from NORDP’s President

Dear NORDP members,

As October has arrived I want you to know that your Board has been hard at work for you. The Board of Directors met in-person for two days in September where we took your priorities and feedback from surveys and interviews and drafted a Strategic Plan. It was exhausting, but a lot of fun, too! Now, the Board is working to iron out a few details of the Strategic Plan and is putting together a budget process to work with it.NORDP StratPlan

What is next?

The Board will be voting on approving the Strategic Plan this month! Once the Strategic Plan is finalized, we will organize a meeting with all leadership and committee co-chairs to explain the new budgeting process that will allow us to operationalize the Strategic Plan objectives. Then we will share the plan with the entire membership, setting it in motion.

We are so excited to kick this off! Stay tuned and be on the lookout for more information soon.

Thank you for your membership! Please check out and answer our latest poll – as we are in the midst of conference abstract season – to let us know what you think: “What topics are you most interested in seeing as conference presentations?” You can access it here.

Karen “Fletch” Fletcher
NORDP President

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.

Pacific Region VII Conference this Month! Still time to Register

Don’t miss the 2019 NORDP Pacific Regional Meeting in Davis, CA from October 24 to October 25, 2019. Register today.

We are “Leveraging Strengths in the West: Diversity, Excellence, and Partnership” during this 1st regional conference to extend your network, establish new partnerships, and learn best practices, processes, and more from research development colleagues from across the Western region.

This two-day conference event offers a regional setting and location to learn about:

  • 2019 NORDP national annual conference RD presentations and trends;
  • Key perspectives for long-term sustainability of RD operations;
  • Insights into current practices and strategies for complex proposal development;
  • Opportunities to enhance regional engagement and research collaborations; and
  • Career guidance and knowledge-sharing for professional development.

You do not need to be a NORDP member to attend. The meeting welcomes participants from all of Region VII, encompassing Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Eastern Russia, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries east of China.

The conference registration includes program materials, breakfast, lunch, and refreshment breaks on both days. An optional, no-host dinner sign-up will be offered on Day 1. The cost to attend both days is $111.

The agenda and more information regarding the event can be found at the following link,

See you this month!

Region VII Meeting
Planning Subcommittee

Reminder: Webinar on Abstracts Today! Not Too Late to Sign Up!!

The NORDP 2020 Conference Programming Committee is presenting a webinar on writing  successful abstracts for this year’s conference.  Learn how to craft a competitive abstract appropriate to the numerous presentation formats available.  We will do a deep dive into the current Call for Abstracts, which was released in August, as well as share tips for developing a strong abstract and conference presentation. Register here to attend today’s webinar  at 1:00 p.m. central time.


Developing a Strong Abstract for the 2020 NORDP Conference

Are you interested in presenting at the 2020 NORDP Conference in San Antonio, Texas? Whether for one- or two-hour sessions, Lightning Talks, the Idea Showcase, or Roundtables, your successful conference abstract submission is your opportunity to present at the conference and share your message with NORDP colleagues.

The NORDP 2020 Conference Programming Committee is presenting a webinar on writing successful abstracts for this year’s conference. You can register here for the webinar that will take place Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 1:00 p.m. central time.

Learn how to craft a competitive abstract appropriate to the numerous presentation formats available. This webinar is designed to engage all NORDP members, including those new to the field and to the organization, and will help ensure you can prepare a successful abstract.

We will do a deep dive into the current Call for Abstracts, which was released in August, as well as share tips for developing a strong abstract and conference presentation.

Time to get excited about sharing your experience and expertise with the NORDP community! Abstracts are due October 21.

The webinar will be hosted by Kari Whittenberger-Keith, PhD; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.NORDP 2018 KWK Kari founded the Research Development Services unit of Office of Research at UW-M. She is a member of the NORDP Board and was conference co-chair in 2018 and 2019. She has worked both as a faculty member at several institutions and in research development at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Oregon. A PhD in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, she has taught public speaking, effective communication practices and training and development in both academic and professional settings for over 35 (yikes!) years.

NORDP’s Peer Mentoring Groups: Building Support Networks

In May 2019, NORDP launched the Peer Mentoring Group (PMG) pilot program. So far, 89 members have engaged with the program, and the invitation remains for others to join.

To recap, the PMG program is structured around the six pillars of research development; the liaisons for each group are included:

  1. Career & Professional Development – Christina Howard
  2. Enhancing Collaboration & Team Science – Paula Carney
  3. Communication – Scott Balderson, Svetlana Pitts, Rachel Goff-Albritton
  4. Leadership & Management – Katie Howard
  5. Proposal Development – David Widmer
  6. Strategic Planning & Advancement – Samarpita Sengupta

Members were invited to select one or more of the PMGs in which they would like to participate, and NORDP’s Mentoring Committee initiated the first meeting of the six PMGs.

The effort was driven by Christina Howard and David Widmer, who are co-chairs of NORDP’s Mentoring Committee and are joined by Jan Abramson, Kathy Partlow, and Faye Farmer to form the committee’s leadership team.   The Mentoring Committee is made up of about two dozen other NORDP members to help facilitate the Mentoring program, which paired up 112 mentors/mentees this year.

David explains that the initial goal of the Peer Mentoring Group pilot was to help members build a network of support among members. “We are never really fully developed by a single mentor.  If you think about your broader network, it’s clear that you are being mentored by multiple people.”

“PMGs are an example of this committee in action,” Jan Abramson says. “One idea leads to another to another to another … and from a discussion about member needs, the importance of building a network of mentors, and making sure anyone who requests a member has one, the Mentoring Committee decided to launch the pilot.”

David, himself, is participating in three PMGs – the proposal development, enhancing collaboration & team science, and leadership & management groups.  He says this is yet one more time he’s been impressed by the willingness of NORDP members to share best practices. He invites other NORDP members to join in with the PMGs that interest them.

“These groups are coalescing, building closer relationships, and beginning to collaborate,” he says, explaining that one group, the Proposal Development PMG, has scheduled a monthly Zoom call and set up a Google folder to share resources.

“Everybody speaks and interacts on the calls.  As the hour comes to an end, it feels like we want to keep talking more,” he says, noting several members have continued conversations via emails in-between calls.

“Participating in PMG has been a great learning process,” Katie Howard, Mentoring Committee member and a part of the Leadership and Management PMG, says. “Our group has really gelled and enjoys coming together for lively conversation about our selected topic of the day – it’s a refreshing way to share best practices and learn from colleagues.” This group shares facilitation responsibility and rotates discussion leaders each month for the calls.

NORDP members who would like to join one of the PMGs should send an email to the Mentoring Committee at

Submitted by Sharon Pound

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.