Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
May 17, 2018
Director Liz Scarratt helps researchers secure funding: 'In the end, what I do is based on connections with other people'
When Liz Scarratt rushed out of her office on a snowy December morning last year to grab a pre-meeting coffee at Mac Hall, the UCalgary staffer who secures funding for research was about to discover what she loves about her job — making connections that count.
“I’m a bit of a nomad (she’s traveled to Barcelona five times), so one of my favourite things is to just go out on campus and see people,” says Scarratt, who is director of the institutional program division for the University of Calgary’s research services office. “Maybe I’ll run into a researcher and have a chat to consider how I can help or we’ll even put something together.”
That’s exactly what happened on this day, when she bumped into Casey Hubert, associate professor and CAIP chair in geomicrobiology, whose research focuses on microorganisms in deep biosphere habitats. He was having a funding issue for lab work. Though she didn’t help him launch a new project this time, she did phone someone on her team who contacted the right funding agency and promptly fixed Hubert’s problem.
Funding opportunities are high dollar value, high risk
“We’re constantly dealing with challenges, whether it is new funding programs or ensuring that we’re dealing with the right people at government agencies,” says Scarratt, who leads a team of 15 administrators that secures more than $100 million in funding annually, paving the way for UCalgary researchers to do groundbreaking work.
“The types of funding opportunities that my team and I work on are generally high dollar value and high risk — and there are limited opportunities,” she says. “So, it requires the university to make strategic decisions regarding what to put forward as well as drawing on a strategy.”
As the University of Calgary continues its Eyes High journey with the publication of the renewed 2018-23 Academic and Research Plans, which serve as the road maps to Eyes High, Scarratt and her team work to ensure the strategic research themes achieve their potential. She drives innovation by helping researchers prepare proposals, strategically position their work and even figure out some of the logistics of implementing the funded projects.
'Working with a research goal in mind is so rewarding'
Among Scarratt’s many success stories, one that stands out for her is the world-class microbiome facility at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), which opened last year. The International Microbiome Centre (IMC) — funded through Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Government of Alberta and the university — equips the university to become a leader in research to prevent and treat chronic diseases.
“It is an incredibly complex project and a great opportunity for Calgary, Alberta and Canada that will allow us to make breakthroughs,” says Scarratt, who worked for more than two years with her team and partners to help push the project to completion. “We have identified infections, inflammation and chronic diseases as a priority area. For the really innovative stuff to be done in this space, we needed a germ-free research facility and now we have it — and it all began with the thought leaders at the university. It all links back to our research plan.”
For Scarratt, both her chance meeting with Hubert that led to a quick fix and her dedicated work over a few years that helped to launch the high-profile microbiome facility were spurred by her motivation to do a job that counts.
“If you have to go to work, as most people do, you should want to do your best and feel like you’re really contributing to something,” she says. “Working with a research goal in mind is so rewarding. In the end, what I do is based on connections with other people. I’ve learned that sometimes, even when you leave your office, you can help a great idea to get somewhere.”
About UCalgary's Academic and Research Plans
Students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars at the University of Calgary move us forward every day in the work they do supporting our Eyes High Strategy 2017-2022. People in the Plans, a series appearing in UToday, explores how our people drive the success of the renewed Academic and Research Plans — the road maps to Eyes High.
The refreshed Academic and Research Plans are based on an integrated model, one that acknowledges the connection between teaching, learning and research. Each plan has three priorities with identified major goals and strategies. Both plans are connected through the value propositions of student experience and impact, and share a common priority of driving innovation. The five priorities included in the Academic and Research Plans will drive human, capital and financial resource allocations over the next five years at the university.