OVPR to award four staff members for research service, support


The Office of the Vice President for Research will honor four staff members with its annual recognition awards for their expertise and support of research and scholarship activity across the University of Michigan.

April Pepperdine will receive the Exceptional Service Award and Becky O’Brien is the recipient of this year’s Research Administrator Recognition Award. David Paris and Caleb Smith each will receive the Research Technical Staff Recognition Award.

All four employees are expected to be honored during a reception this fall.

“The rapidly changing COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way in which our entire research enterprise operates, but thanks in large part to the tremendous efforts of research staff across our three campuses, laboratories and research spaces remain safe and are close to fully operational,” said Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine.

Exceptional Service Award

April Pepperdine
April Pepperdine

The Exceptional Service Award recognizes staff members in the Office of the Vice President for Research and its reporting units for their important contributions to the university research enterprise.

April Pepperdine joined the university in 2002 and now serves as director of OVPR’s Conflict of Interest Program. Pepperdine supervises a team that provides oversight of, and the procedural structure for, outside activity disclosure, the review of potential conflicts of interest, and the management of identified conflicts in research, sponsored projects and technology transfer for all three campuses, except Michigan Medicine.

As noted by a colleague who nominated Pepperdine for the award, “Her efforts have strengthened our research and compliance programs in ways that reduce regulatory burden for researchers and research administrators, while maintaining high standards for compliance oversight.”

Research Administrator Recognition Award

Becky O'Brien
Becky O’Brien

The Research Administrator Recognition Award recognizes research administrators in any unit across campus, and honors exemplary service to the research community over a number of years.

Becky O’Brien, who joined the university in 2001, is director of research administration at the School of Information. O’Brien leads the strategic planning efforts for the school’s research activities and partners with leadership to assess and manage its broad research portfolio.

“She continuously demonstrates her commitment to faculty, students and her peers, helping others achieve professional growth through her involvement on campus and especially through her continuous and long-term service with a number of universitywide committees,” wrote a colleague who nominated O’Brien for the award.

Research Technical Staff Recognition Award

The Research Technical Staff Recognition Award recognizes staff members who have, independently or along with faculty, advanced the research mission of their unit in a way that extends beyond the ordinary fulfillment of a position’s duties.

David Paris joined the university in 2010 and now serves as a senior research laboratory technician in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology. Paris handles a variety of important roles in the Pletcher Laboratory, which include mentoring students and creating devices that aim to improve research productivity.

As noted by a colleague who nominated Paris for the award, “He’s the key personnel that keeps our lab clean and organized, and he has his own workshop that continually generates innovations that greatly facilitate the experiments in the lab.”

Caleb Smith, who joined the university in 2006, serves as a lead strategic planner in the Medical School. Smith co-founded Research Intelligence & Analytics, a unit of the Medical School Office of Research that provides strategic decision support through the execution of complex data-driven investigations.

“Caleb’s insights and innovative contributions provide us a critical advantage in understanding how we can contribute to the leading edge of innovation,” wrote a colleague who nominated Smith for the award.

The award recipients were selected by Cunningham, based on recommendations from an award selection committee consisting of past award winners: Judy Carrillo, Lori Deromedi, Jessica Durkin, Teresa Herrick, Melissa Karby, David Mulder, Jane Sierra and Tom Bray.


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