To my friends and colleagues of the UChicago research community,
After 16 years at UChicago, first serving in the BSD as the Institutional Biosafety Officer, and subsequently in 2014 being appointed to staff and to lead the newly formed Office of Research Safety (ORS), I am planning to retire in early January 2024. It has truly been an honor to have been provided the opportunity to contribute to and support the robust collective UChicago life, physical, and social sciences research effort.
I first want to thank the leaders in the Office of the Provost, the Deans Offices, and the Department of Microbiology for their support, both financial and spiritual, as we built the Research Safety Program, as this support was essential to our success. This support facilitated the hiring of subject matter expert Safety Officers to lead Biological, Chemical, Radiological and Laser Safety domains supported and managed by the ORS as well as the Laboratory Safety Specialists and Health Physicists to serve as a direct liaison between individual principal investigator (PI)-led research teams and the staff of the ORS. I also want to thank leadership for their support and encouragement that enabled me to contribute nationally to life sciences research policy developed and published by the NIH Office of Science Policy advisory committees including the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (NIH-RAC, now renamed the Novel and Exceptional Technology and Research Advisory Committee-NExTRAC), and the NIH National Science Advisory Board on Biosafety and Biosecurity (NSABB); the National Academy of Sciences SynBio Working Group; and CDC initiatives including service on the Advisory Committee to the Director of CDC (ACD-CDC) and the Poliovirus Containment Working Group and the National Certification Committee (for poliovirus containment).
I also want to thank my colleagues in the Office of Research whose collective partnership and wisdom helped to guide my efforts as the ORS has matured over the past ten years. Similarly, I want to thank my faculty colleagues in the Department of Microbiology who are true partners in our efforts to support responsible research programs.
I next want to thank the leaders and staff of other UChicago units with whom ORS collaborates in serving and supporting the UChicago research enterprise, especially the Animal Resources Center, Environmental Health and Safety, both campus as well as the Medical Center, the IBC and IACUC Administrative Office, information technology groups, including ITS and BSDIS, and the Physical Plant and Facilities Services . Together with EHS and with the support of ITS and BSDIS, we have developed our shared data management system, Environmental Health and Safety Assistant (EHSA), which serves as the “mother ship” data management system supporting ORS and EHS programs, including the ORS annual laboratory inspection program, ORS and EHS training programs, EHS hazardous waste management program, and providing our PIs and researchers tools to assist with their maintenance of inventories of hazardous and/or regulated research materials, training status of all research staff and students, and locations of research activities, among numerous other Important tools. I also thank my colleagues in the Office of General Council for their guidance and support as we engage regulators overseeing our research safety programs.
It goes without saying that I am very grateful for the excellence and professionalism of my staff in the ORS, including the Research Safety Officers, the Laboratory Safety Specialists, our Health Physicists, the Director of Business Integration, and our ORS Department Administrator, who together with Employee Labor Relations also directs and oversees the ORS Educational Assignment Program which provides opportunities for our young future scientists to gain research experience at a premier academic research institute.
Similarly, I thank the graduate student leaders and members of the Joint Research Safety Initiative (JRSI) for their partnership and their successful efforts to support research safety on the front lines at the bench.
A search committee has been formed and has initiated a nation-wide search for my successor who will replace me in my ORS leadership role and will serve as the Associate Provost (AP) for Research Safety. If my successor has not yet been identified, a plan to appoint an Interim AP ORS is in place.
I wish all my colleagues, faculty, staff, and students continued success. It has been an honor to have worked with you as we work collectively to promote responsible science.