Helping hand in research

By Patrick Boyle

The fantastic achievements that emerge frequently from various labs of University of Calgary researchers are well-known. But who are the individuals that make these discoveries possible by negotiating grants, dealing with administrative work and acting as a liaison to the public?

Enter Dr. Pamela Sokol and her co-workers, the members of the Vice-President Research team. On Sept. 1, Dr. Sokol was appointed to the position of Associate VP Research. She joins the top ranks of research administration with a great deal of pertinent experience, both with actual medical research and with the administrative duties that inevitably go hand in hand.

Since she began her career at the U of C as a post-doctorate fellow in 1982, Dr. Sokol has held a number of important research-based positions including Associate Dean of Graduate Education in the Faculty of Medicine from 1997 to 1999 and Chair of the Committee on Research from 1999 to 2000. With the aid of this extensive resume, she intends to help the university achieve some of its long-term goals for research.

"The University of Calgary is research intensive and it’s trying to increase its profile in research, to be recognized as one of the top research universities in Canada," said Dr. Sokol. "Its goal now is to be in the top five by 2010."

In her new position, Dr. Sokol will be a part of coordination and promotion of research activities at the university. Although the VP Research team is responsible for the whole school, her medical background allows her to specialize in management of medical research while other members of the team deal with their respective fields.

"I will be involved in the Canada Research Chairs program, coordinating some of the infrastructure funding, matching funding to Canada Foundation for Innovations applications," said Dr. Sokol. "A lot of these applications processes and forms are a pain for researchers. I think that one of the roles of our office is to make it as smooth as possible for people to apply for research funding."

As time-consuming as it may sound, the position is only half time. Dr. Sokol also holds a half time professorship that includes commitments to both teaching and research. Due to her tight schedule, her team of graduate and post-doctorate students are a great asset in her investigation of microbial diseases and her development therapeutics for lung damage in cystic fibrosis patients.

With her impressive track record, it seems that Dr. Sokol’s influence will produce a noticeable effect in the U of C’s research output.

"I think [the Faculty of] Medicine has gotten better over the last couple of years at communicating their research activities to the community," said Dr. Sokol. "That’s something that needs to be done in other areas too. We need to let people know what we’re doing here."

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