If the Institute is the engine that drives global health research at UNC, the Grant Administration team might just be the drivetrain, bringing all the structural components that deliver energy and create momentum. This is a spotlight on a team of rock stars who feel pride in their mission, who say the best part of their day is starting it together, working through the challenges and learning from each other. Led by Lonnie Hawley, the team includes Allison Ali, Cherie Mellor, Meagan Lucente, Sandy Barnhart and Joseph Katz.
1) What does the grant administration team do?
Lonnie Hawley: “We are often called the pre-award team which implies that we help investigators through their submissions and then bow out, but this is not all that we do. We are really a grant administration team. We support PIs from the beginning to the end of the grant process.”
Allison Ali: “This team often performs miracles! We handle NIH applications that are called NOSI, a special kind of application that requires a two-week turn around. We also work with multiple principal investigators to ensure timely compliance of research applications, routing them through the appropriate channels for review.”
2) Why is your work important?
Cherie Mellor: “My work is important because I’m one piece of the puzzle. As a facilitator, I coin two phrases from Jerry Maguire: ‘Help me Help You’ and ‘Show me the Money.’ We are here to help each investigator bring in the money to further research, and to find inventive ways to make global communities a better place to live without infectious diseases. Without our team to assist and facilitate the application process, we would have no funding coming in to do the research we do. Knowing that I work behind the scenes in an administrative role to assist in the process of reducing or eliminating infectious diseases from our communities and around the world, gives me great joy. We need all of the pieces to come together to complete the mission of the Institute.”
Allison Ali: “Our team is uniquely positioned to serve as the liaison between the PI, the UNC Office of Sponsored Programs, and the funding sponsor. We bring technical skills in accounting, soft skills in diplomacy, communications skills that navigate internal and external barriers–all with a bit of compassion thrown in for the level of time and effort each person devotes to their craft.”
3) How long have you worked with IGHID?
Meagan Lucente: “I have worked for IGHID for over a year now. I joined IGHID because I was intrigued by the work that the PI’s are conducting. This was a new field of work for me, and I have to say that I love it! During my interview I was told that the pre-award team works very well together and that there is ‘no one left behind.’ After working here for a year, I could not agree more. The team works very well together to ensure that all grants make it over the finish line.”
4) Why did you join IGHID?
Sandy Barnhart: “I was 12 years old when Ryan White died, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS became my passion. When I moved to North Carolina and started working as a temp in Ophthalmology, I interviewed for a position at CFAR but wasn’t hired because I didn’t have any research experience. Later, when Lou Anne Loschin (Post-Award Manager) needed part-time help, I jumped at the chance. After that, I got the chance to join the clinical trials unit management team. The rest is history.” Read more about Sandy.
5) How would you describe IGHID to someone who may be considering employment?
Lonnie Hawley: “Our work has a direct impact on the community and the world we live in through innovative research and novel approaches to healthcare. The researchers we work with and support are in the news every day. They are on the frontlines dealing with emerging diseases worldwide.”
6) What do you most enjoy about your work?
Meagan Lucente: “The thing I enjoy most about my work is the team that I work with. I love the friendships I have built. The research that our PI’s conduct is so intriguing to me and I am able to take part in contributing to such important science. I also enjoy that I learn something new every day. Documents and processes are forever changing and it keeps my mind sharp.”
Allison Ali: “Meeting our motley crew each morning.”
Cherie Mellor: “I am truly amazed at the research work we do here at IGHID, and how each one brings a specialty or subspecialty of medicine to combat the issues at hand around the world. I love the variety in Research Administration that we come across with our research proposals. I have been a public administration accountant by trade for many years; however, my passion is being a part of something that impacts the world for the greater good.”
7) What is a typical day like?
Joseph Katz: “I recently joined the team because I find the process of funding and conducting research interesting and highly important for the development of new treatments and medicines. My typical day includes training, training, training! Throughout the day I shadow my coworkers in meetings, take notes on funding mechanisms, and listen to how the team solves any new and interesting questions that arise. There’s a lot of information to absorb, but when it all starts coming together it feels great.”
Cherie Mellor: “ ‘Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.’ Each and every day is different for me. This job is full of surprises and variety. My work is dependent upon the PI(s) and the applications at hand. I love working on the very complex and challenging applications because it is very rewarding to me.”
8) What’s something about you that not many people know?
Cherie Mellor: “I wanted to be a Pediatric Nurse when I was in middle school. I joined my high school’s Career Technical Education Program and by the time I was 18, I had worked in three convalescent hospitals, an emergency room, a physical therapy office, and also served as a medical records clerk.”
“My parents also had season tickets to the Dodger games. The seats were behind the dugout and as a kid, I sat next to the Captain and Tennille and Sonny and Cher during baseball games.”
Lonnie Hawley: “I used to work for WRAL’s PM Magazine with Susan Dahlin and Tom McNamara. I was the secret shopper who would go out and do the research and then report back to the talent.”
Sandy Barnhart: “I have a tattoo with a dagger through an AIDS ribbon. I designed it myself.”
9) What do you do outside of work?
Meagan Lucente: “I have three children and my life revolves around them. Outside of work you’ll often find me cheering from the sidelines at my seven-year-old’s games, or dancing around a cake batter filled kitchen because my three-year-old loves to bake and my one-year- old loves to dance.”
10) What’s the last book you read?
Joseph Katz: “The last book I read was Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I love the eclectic mix of voices, joys, sorrows, and lives (both already ended and still ongoing) that flow throughout the novel. If you want to be haunted by one the most earnest and deeply moving ghost stories you’ve ever read, I certainly recommend it.”
The Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID) attracts people who are driven to make big change. From principal investigators and grant managers to regulatory specialists and study coordinators, everyone has an important role to play in what we do. We are pleased to highlight colleagues who proudly serve IGHID.