Baylor Research Infrastructure Strengthened with New Scientific Procurement and Grant-Employee Administration Positions

October 9, 2018
News - Matula Johnson Front

Contact: Whitney Richter, Director of Marketing and Communications, Office of the Vice Provost for Research, 254-710-7539
Written by: Gary Stokes, Office of the Vice Provost for Research

WACO, Texas (October 9, 2018) – Broadening the scope of administrative services supporting Baylor faculty researchers, two experienced service professionals have come aboard to facilitate procurement of scientific/technical equipment and instrumentation, and to administer the university's grant-supported employees. The move comes partly in response to the heightened pace and breadth of research mandated by Baylor's Illuminate vision statement and its long-term goal of achieving "very high research" (R1) status as an institution.

Tracy Johnson, M.S.

Tracy Johnson, M.S.

As Strategic Procurement Analyst in Baylor's Procurement Services group, Tracy Johnson, M.S., assumed the position in April 2018, and will specialize in working with faculty to procure specialized equipment and instrumentation needed for their research. Johnson's interest in science was sparked at an early age by visits with her parents to Baylor's Strecker Museum, now incorporated into the university's popular Mayborn Museum. Johnson received her Bachelor's degree in forensic science at Baylor before earning a Master's degree in biomedical science at East Carolina University.

Preceding the return to her Waco alma mater, Johnson spent five years at the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) as associate laboratory director for NASA's, National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) in Houston. While there, she outfitted laboratories for studies in molecular biology and engineering, as well as a lab designed to adapt Earth-bound healthcare devices for use in space. Her science education and experience serve as near-perfect preparation for her current position.

"[I]t was important for the Procurement Services Department to hire a scientist," Johnson said. "When procuring a specialized piece of equipment, it's helpful for the person assisting with the purchase to have a basic understanding of its function. When I interact with a sales representative, I always remember that I'm doing so on behalf of a faculty member and the university. I make it a priority to ensure I've done the research necessary on each piece of specialized equipment or instrumentation prior to any negotiation. After I've spoken to a sales representative, my background as a scientist serves me well again because it allows me to correctly relay any pertinent technical details to researchers so they can make informed decisions."

Johnson says she was required to "wear many hats" at BCM/NSBRI, including that of grant project manager. The role allowed her to work closely with researchers. "One of the things I loved the most about that part of my job was meeting our investigators and learning about their research. I'm able to do this in my current position at Baylor as well, while at the same time assisting the faculty in making the purchases needed to advance their research," she said.

Tracy is a native of the Waco area, and is married to her high school sweetheart, (also Baylor-educated); they have two children.

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Grant employees constitute a class of workers all their own. Hired and paid with funds from a specific grant for a specific time period and function, theirs can be a tenuous situation at best. Human Resources Grant Employee Specialist, Katie Matula M.S.W., knows that well: she has been a grant employee herself.

Katie Matula, M.S.W.

Katie Matula, M.S.W.

"I come from a grant background, having spent the last four years working for a non-profit [organization] writing grants and supporting their implementation," Matula said. "I have also been a grant-funded employee before—though not in higher education—which has given me a better understanding of what some of Baylor's [grant] employees may experience. I'm able to see the systems in place and understand the ripple effects of how asking for a change or shift in one area, could have an effect another grant-related area.  I think my experiences with grants also give me the ability to relate a little better to research faculty and build a working relationship with them—I know what it can feel like to have a grant rejected."

A native of Pasadena, Texas, Matula began her social work education at Huntington University, the Indiana institution where she earned her undergraduate degree. She then moved to Baylor for her Master's.  Coming on board in July, she's still settling into her new role, which she sees as a good fit for her background and education.

"Having two degrees in social work provides me with a unique perspective to understand the systems I'm learning about here at Baylor and, I hope, the future for grant-funded positions," Matula said, adding, "I see my role as helping faculty during the proposal process, ensuring they are budgeting the right amount of money for positions they need and the job duties they need performed on a given proposal. I also will be helping to track grant-funded employees to ensure they are appropriately moved between funding sources and continue to be paid."

Katie and her husband Chris live on a ranch with some 50 cows, a couple of dogs and a bevy of barn cats. They are just finishing up their house and enjoy movies, board games and visiting with friends and family.