Who: Becca Latimer, Research Program Director
Where: University of Virginia Comprehensive Cancer Center
Number of Years Working in RD: Seven Years
Length of NORDP Membership: Seven years
When and how did you enter the field? What kind of research development work do you do?
I fell into RD, as many of us in NORDP do. I had just completed a postdoctoral position in developmental biology, and I knew I wanted to stay in research but I did not want to open a lab. I knew there had to be something else out there that would allow me to utilize the skill sets I had learned at the bench. We had just moved to Virginia when I heard about a position in the office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Virginia – they were starting up a research development team. While I didn’t get the job I had originally applied for, I stayed in touch with the hiring manager and was offered a position to lead a funding discovery project the office was trying to get off the ground. I jumped in and learned quickly, and the rest is history!
As for the work I do now, I’ve recently started in a new position in the University of Virginia Cancer Center. My new role allows me to support many of the key functions that keep the center running. So far, I have taken on projects like putting together new seed grants and revamping and streamlining our processes to make the center function more efficiently. I’ve also been doing a lot of work on our internal metrics. We have more than 200 members so there’s a lot of data to keep up with! So in my time at UVA, I’ve gone from a very central to a very focused role – two totally different beasts, but both important to the whole research enterprise.
What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented, other roles you’ve held)?
My history with NORDP started when I attended my first NORDP conference and it opened my eyes to the fact that these are my people and this is a really cool organization. I quickly became interested in committee service and decided to join the professional development committee, although it was a tough choice because all of the committees interested me! In 2019, there was an opportunity to step up to serve as a co-chair for the PD Committee, and I decided to say yes because I knew it would give me a chance to be more involved and meet more people and contribute to the projects the committee was trying to move forward.
I’ve also worked with Kimberly Eck on the salary survey committee in 2019, which I found to be very fun and fulfilling. I feel like the salary survey really gives us a good idea of where we stand as professionals and as an organization. And I think it has been a useful tool to our members that they can use to advocate for themselves and their colleagues when it comes to negotiating with their institutions.
Most recently, I became involved with the NORDP Conference Planning Committee. I started right before we put on the 2021 virtual conference, which was our first virtual conference, and served as a co-chair for the 2022 virtual conference. I’m currently serving as a co-chair for our 2023 conference (our first in-person conference in four years), and I also serve on the executive conference committee. I’ve been reflecting on the fact that the last time NORDP held our conference in Crystal City, it was 2018 and I was serving as a conference ambassador, and now we’re back in this venue and I’m serving as a co-chair. It’s kind of wild!
What motivated you to run for the NORDP Board?
I actually decided I wanted to be more involved in NORDP during the pandemic. I saw it as an opportunity, because I was working from home and decided I could use the time I was no longer spending commuting to the office to do more volunteering. So I really just made a conscious decision to really immerse myself more and step up and roll up my sleeves to get the work done. And in doing that, I feel like it’s really fostered a lot of great relationships with my NORDP colleagues. And I realized just how important NORDP has become to me, because of our organization’s vision and mission. I don’t work with any other group or organization that works to be as inclusive and is filled with people that are so thoughtful and united in their desire to push things forward and institute change. I’ve gotten so much out of NORDP and benefitted from the people who have served on the Board before me and put their time and effort into progressing and evolving our organization. I felt like it was time for me to contribute that kind of effort back to our members as well and pay it forward.
What are you most excited about as a new NORDP Board member?
I think one great step our Board has taken previously is to outline some key initiatives and key result areas (KRAs) that we as an organization can focus on. I’m really looking forward to building on those KRAs going forward. I’m also just really excited to work with our Board, because we have an awesome Board! So many of my fellow Board members are trusted colleagues and friends who I’ve built relationships with since joining NORDP and everyone is so supportive. Our Board is really engaged and interactive, and motivated to keep improving our organization.