BTI Grant Managers Help Researchers Excel

by | Feb 24, 2015

Behind every great researcher is a great business office. At BTI, a small team of grant managers is committed to helping faculty secure the funding that keeps their research rolling.

The Business Office has three grant managers, Lori Dempsey, Regina Holl and Mary Westlake. They support 18 faculty members and ensure that grants are complete and submitted properly. They also build budgets, track expenses and check that projects comply with federal requirements.

Depending on the complexity of the grant, it can take between a week and a month to prepare, and the office manages the project for the entire life of the grant—up to 10 years. The types of grants are various and fund projects such as sequencing the coconut genome, growing more nutritious tomatoes or hosting undergraduate researchers.

In 2014, BTI brought in an estimated $12,848,776 in sponsored research funds. Out of 111 full proposals submitted by the office, 35 were awarded, 23 are still pending and 53 were not funded. The success rate for 2014 was 31.5 percent—far higher than the national success rate for National Science Foundation grants in 2013 at 22 percent.

“All grants are interesting to work on in their own way,” said Holl. “I most enjoy working on non-traditional grants where I play a more active role in the project administration and implementation, including contract negotiation, milestone oversight and facilitating internal and external collaborations.”

In contrast, Westlake prefers working with the more traditional grants, but said, “I also enjoy the occasional massive grant like a past DARPA award (the research arm of the US Department of Defense) that had nine scientists on the grant and BTI administered the purchasing, travel and financial and technical reports.

The office also works closely with faculty to perform a myriad of other administrative tasks such as forecasting funding burn rates and finding the best ways to allocate funds to maximize laboratory staffing. They also serve as liaisons to other Business Office sections to get approvals for human resources requests, invoices and travel authorizations.

Though their names don’t appear on research papers and posters, the grants managers are integral to the success of BTI’s mission to advance knowledge in plant biology to improve agriculture, protect the environment, and enhance human health.

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