Click the image to enlarge
Seven years ago, when Sam D’Alfonso began working as the administrative assistant to the associate dean of research in the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, he wasn’t exactly sure how to approach his role, which came with a unique set of challenges.
In his position, which is funded in part by the Research Support Fund, D’Alfonso informs researchers in the department about important requirements and deadlines, and helps them meet these by filling out paperwork and assisting with grant applications. He was met with a sharp learning curve, as he had to understand the wide range of research he was helping make happen.
“I can’t just put in cookie cutter answers,” he said. “I have to understand well what the research is trying to achieve, and reflect that in the portion I’m writing. I’ve had to learn what all the terminology is.”
D’Alfonso saw that there was often an organizational and communication gap between the departments or committees who developed policies and other groups across campus.
“I needed to figure out how to define that gap and fill it,” he said.
D’Alfonso has since improved communication in his department by acting as a central organizer. He makes sure researchers are aware of discoveries found in other labs, and facilitates networking among clinical and biomolecular researchers. He also advocated for student representation on the research advisory committee, and developed a listserv for all postdoctoral fellows at the faculty.
D’Alfonso said he enjoys learning about and being a part of the evolving research community.
“Whatever I do in the office is an extension of the researcher,” he said. “I’m the arms and legs. That’s my way of letting research happen.”
Find out more about research being conducted at the University of Toronto
The Research Support Fund supports a portion of the costs associated with managing the research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, such as salaries for staff who provide administration support, training costs for workplace health and safety, maintenance of libraries and laboratories, and administrative costs associated with obtaining patents for inventions.