Institute Welcome

Robert Butera headshot

Robert Butera serves Georgia Tech as the Chief Research Operations Officer (CROO). He facilitates the Institute’s research activities and oversees Research Integrity Assurance, Research Administration, Research Operations/Infrastructure, and Research Development as part of the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research. Butera is a Professor jointly appointed in the Wallace H. Coulter Dept. of Biomedical Engineering and the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Prior to taking on the role of CROO, Butera served as the Vice President for Research Development and Operations (2019-2023). Prior to joining the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research, Butera served as the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Engineering (2016-2019). He previously directed the Neural Engineering Center (2014-2016), served as founding Faculty Director of the Grand Challenges Living Learning Community (2012-2015), and Director of the Interdisciplinary Bioengineering Graduate Program (2005-2008). During the 2008-2009 academic year he served as a Jefferson Science Fellow at the US Department of State in Washington, DC.

Butera received his BEE degree from Georgia Tech (1991) and his MS (1994) and PhD (1996) from Rice University. Following graduate school, he conducted postdoctoral research (1996-1999) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. He joined the faculty of Georgia Tech in 1999.

Butera’s research is focused on developing novel methods for peripheral and autonomic nerve modulation using electrical signaling, combining engineering and neuroscience to tackle clinically motivated problems. For much of his earlier career, he conducted research in computational approaches to problems in systems and cellular neuroscience.

Professionally, Butera has served as Vice-President for Finance (2011-2014) and Vice-President for Publications (2017-2019) for the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society as well as on its AdCom (Board of Directors) from 2005-2010. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Organization for Computational Neuroscience (2013-2015). Butera is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Keynote Address

Dr. Shannon Yee headshot

Dr. Shannon Yee is an Associate Professor at the G.W.W. School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Yee joined Georgia Tech in 2014 directly from his PhD at the University of California Berkeley. In the midst of his studies, he joined the US. Dept. of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) during its inaugural year as the first ARPA-E Fellow.

Dr. Yee completed his MS in Nuclear Engineering in 2008 and his BS in Mechanical Engineering in 2007, both from The Ohio State University. In 2008, he was awarded a prestigious Hertz Fellowship. In 2015, Dr. Yee was selected for an AFOSR Young Investigator Award to develop polymer thermoelectrics. Dr. Yee is the recipient of the 2017 ASME Pi-Tau-Sigma Gold Medal award for “outstanding contributions to the field of Mechanical Engineering in the first decade of one’s career.”

In 2019, Shannon was selected for an ONR Young Investigator Award to develop polymer thermal switches. Most recently, Dr. Yee is directing the Generation II Reinvent the Toilet (G2RT) program supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Embracing Diversity, Fostering Equity, and Cultivating Inclusion: A Chat on the State of Affirmative Action in Higher Education & Research

Derick Jones headshot

Derick F. Jones has over 23 years of Research administrative experience, formerly serving as Director of Research for multiple divisions at the Lundquist Institute of Biomedical Innovations prior to becoming the Operations Director for Onyx Clinical Research.

He is also the CEO and Founder of the Ubora Leadership Institute. The institute was born out of his many years as a leadership developer within NCURA (National Council of University Research Administrators) where he currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors.

The Institute focuses on leading individuals to reimagine and redesign work cultures that are absent of toxicity by incorporating behavioral health therapies into leadership development. This holistic approach to leadership and DEI development encompasses the entire mind, body, and spirit. The Institute also works with youth groups and serves as a voice for equity and social justice in health deliveries.

Derick is currently finalizing his first book, “The Holistic Guide to Leadership Development,” available January 2024.


Navigating the Maze: Contemporary Challenges in Research Administration and Pathways to Solutions

Lisa Wilson headshot

Lisa Wilson, MBA, PMP, CRA -Interim Assistant Vice President of Research Administration and Senior Director of Strategic Operations and Training

Lisa joined Emory Research Administration from Clark Atlanta University, where she served as Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs. In this role, she was responsible for broad oversight of research offices, including basic research, sponsored program administration (pre & post-award), lab operations and safety, research development, public-private partnerships in support of research, government relations, policy development, compliance monitoring intellectual property (IP) management, technology transfer, and research commercialization. Lisa has a proven record of success in research administration and fund development.

As the Interim Assistant Vice President of the Office of Research Administration Optimization (ORAO) and Senior Director of Strategic Operations and Training (SOT) at Emory University. Lisa’s primary responsibility is to streamline processes and operations between central and non-central research administration business units and ensure smooth and efficient management of research administration activities across the enterprise. As the Senior Director of SOT, she operationalizes a strategy across the award lifecycle, leads the team in developing and delivering research administrator training, coordinates stakeholder communication, and creates synergy across units to ensure integration transparency. Lisa’s familiarity with the research lifecycle and professional project management training uniquely positions her to excel in this role and build a robust development and training program within the Office of Research Administration (ORA).

Lisa earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Physics from Clark Atlanta University. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), a peer reviewer for the Council of International Exchange of Scholars, the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Business Committee, a member of Leadership Macon, Leadership Palm Beach County, the National Black MBA Association, the Research Administrators Certification Council (RACC) and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She is a member of Emory University's Library Policy Committee and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Mentoring Center.


Gregory T. Owen headshot

Gregory T. Owen serves as human resources director of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. He has also served as adjunct faculty for Georgia Tech teaching GT1000 for multiple semesters. He also holds an additional USG adjunct faculty appointment and teaches social science courses in the College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Gwinnet College.

He completed his graduate studies at Georgia State University with a Ph.D. in Higher Education Policy and a Master’s of Science in Educational Psychology. He has more than 20 years’ experience working in higher education and in the field of human resources. His research interests include policy and organizational development, performance management, human resources process improvement, and qualitative research design.


Dr. Robert Nobles heashot

Dr. Robert Nobles (DrPH, MPH) serves as the Vice President for Research Administration at Emory University. Within Emory Nobles leads the research administrative and compliance departments including Clinical Research, Environmental Health and Safety, Institutional Animal Care and Use Commitee, Institutional Review Board, Research Administration – IT, Research Administration Services, Research Compliance and Regulatory Affairs, Research Grants and Contracts, Sponsored Programs, Strategic Operations and Training and Technology Transfer with more than 450 team members providing outstanding services that catalyze research and operational excellence. Daily, Nobles and team are responsible for providing the foundation for the research growth that Emory continues to experience while pursuing discovery.

As the Vice President for Research Administration, Nobles promotes Emory’s research growth through oversight and execution of a strategic direction and effective operations for research across Emory. Nobles works in tandem with senior leaders and faculty to ensure proactive, user-focused customer service; effective, metric-driven processes; and transparent communication, to further new and on-going research initiatives that comply with all regulatory requirements. Nobles also fosters the scholarly work of faculty, facilitates multidisciplinary initiatives, supports innovative technology-transfer and commercialization programs, and strives to increase funding support from all sources, while nurturing positive external relationships.

Nationally, Nobles serves as the Vice Chairperson on Board of Directors for Public Responsibility for Medicine & Research (PRIM&R), the Executive Commitee for the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP), and a member of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advisory Commitee for Business and Operations (Commitee).

Prior to joining Emory University, Nobles served as the interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, (UTK) with a faculty appointment in the Department of Public Health within the College of Education, Health, & Human Sciences. While at UTK, Nobles led efforts and oversaw research growth and compliance activities related to a UTK's quest to become a top 25 public research institution. Nobles also served as a sub-investigator on more than 10 community- based research projects focusing on adolescent health, and chaired national and local commitees focusing on enhancing research culture. Before UTK, Nobles served as the research compliance officer and public health faculty member at both Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. In the public sector, Nobles served as a public health prevention specialist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and as a program manager for the state of Florida’s Department of Public Health.

Nobles completed his Doctor of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston with a triple major that included health policy & management, epidemiology, and health economics; and he received his master's in Public Health specializing in epidemiology, and a bachelor's degree in molecular biology from Florida A&M University. Nobles is an avid educator and has taught on the collegiate level since 2001 in the areas of environmental biology, anatomy and physiology, public administration, health policy and management, health care finance, ethics, epidemiology, and responsible conduct of research.


Scott Nowak headshot

Scott Nowak is currently the Associate Vice President for Research at Kennesaw State University and has been serving in that role for over a year. Scot is a tenured Professor of Biology at Kennesaw State University and actively leads an undergraduate-driven NIH-funded research team at KSU studying cardiac and skeletal muscle formation. Scot holds a B.S. degree in Biochemistry from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Johns Hopkins University.


Kathleen Halley-Octa heashot

Kathleen Halley-Octa, Senior Consultant Attain Partners. Prior to joining Attain Partners in November 2022, Kathleen served as the Director of the Office of Research & Sponsored Projects for the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University. In this role, she led a team of talented research administrators who oversee both pre- and post-award operations for the college’s portfolio. Kathleen began her Research Administration Career at Kennesaw State University as a proposal administrator and ERA specialist. She then moved to the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she worked as a departmental administrator in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering before joining the central Office of Sponsored Programs. In OSP, Kathleen ran Georgia Tech’s Research Administration training program, served as the product owner for numerous ERA systems, and oversaw the development and implementation of eRouting, Georgia Tech’s homegrown electronic routing system.

Kathleen is a Certified Research Administrator and holds a Master’s Degree in English from The College of Charleston and a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Georgia. She has been involved with NCURA since 2013 and has presented at both Regional and National meetings.


Emma Davis heashot

Emma Davis comes to Medasource with 3+ years of experience working with organizations like Emory University across Clinical Research and Research Administration, providing specialized consulting services and solutions for combating post-COVID-19 challenges in the workforce market. Having collaborated with health systems and academic medical center clients nationwide, she is able to provide insight into ongoing trends and proven solutions for hiring across Research Administration, while adapting to the dynamics of the market.


Conversation about T32s with the Emory University Training Grant Support Office

Amber N. Mason headshot

Amber N. Mason, PhD is Associate Director of Evaluation within Emory University Training Grant Support Office (TGSO), a key component of Emory University’s Office of Research Development, situated in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research. Amber received her Bachelor of the Arts in Economics from Spelman College. She earned a Master of Science in Education from Quincy University and completed a Post-Master’s Certification in Program Evaluation at Georgia State University. In 2019, she received her Ph.D. in Educational Policy with a concentration in Research, Measurement, and Statistics from Georgia State University.

Dr. Amber Mason brings over 14 years of professional experience in education, research, measurement, and evaluation. Her professional efforts seek to champion the importance of good research and evaluation practices, ultimately being a change agent for educational and social organizations at large. Further, her work seeks to strengthen the effectiveness of data utilization in mission-driven organizations. At the center of her work, Amber relentlessly advocates for those groups who have traditionally been oppressed, marginalized, and misrepresented in public narratives. Amber’s work has involved research and evaluation studies with a focus on the variability of outcomes for a range of topics impacting different social and ethnic backgrounds.

Dr. Mason serves as a key contributor to Emory University research enterprise, as her work seeks to provides a support infrastructure for training grant program evaluation through the provision and deployment of evaluation tools for planning, measurement, and data analysis. Her work has been instrumental in developing competitive proposals for biomedical training programs, mainly focusing on NIH T32s.


Rena Reinoso headshot

Rena Reinoso, Assistant Director, Emory University Training Grant Support Office. Her professional experience includes managing housing and economic development grants, building systems and processes, and implementing technology resources that support strategic business initiatives. In her current role, Dena provides training grant support to Emory leadership, faculty, and program staff and works with senior research leadership to effectively implement Emory’s training grant development strategies. Dena has a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Berea College and a Master of Business Administration from Baylor University.


Post Award Topics: Effort Certification, Sub-Awards & Communication with PIs

Kay Gilstrap headshot

Kay Gilstrap, C.R.A., is the Director of Research Services for the University Research Centers at Georgia State University. She and her team support the faculty in four University Research Centers with all pre- and post-award operations. Kay has more than 30 years’ experience in Research Administration and has been a member of the national Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) since 2007. In NCURA she has served as Treasurer, Chair, and Regionally Elected Board Member for Region III and currently serving as Financial Research Administration Traveling Workshop Faculty Member. She has served on numerous commitees, has co-authored several articles, and has presented at many meetings. Kay begins her tenure as Treasurer-Elect/Treasurer for NCURA January 1, 2024. She is also a faculty member of Georgia State University’s research administration training program. She is a graduate of the NCURA 2022 Executive Leadership Program. Kay can be reached at


Wesley Wright headshot

Wesley Wright, MS, CRA, CPRA, CFRA is the current Executive Director of Grants and Contracts at Morehouse School of Medicine. He has served in multiple leadership roles within research administration throughout his career that has span for more than 20 years. He has previously worked for the University of Indiana and Ga Tech.


Chryssi Laguines headshot

Chryssi Laguines is the Director for the Colleges and Professional Schools Research Administration Services (CAPS RAS) unit at Emory University. She has worked in research administration for 18 years in various roles and levels of responsibilities. In her current role, she leads a team of pre- and post-award research administrators who support all the non-medical units at Emory University. The units supported consist of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Laney Graduate School, Office of Technology, Emory Law School, and several others.


Tamara Hill headshot

Tamara Hill is the Associate Vice President for Shared Services at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM). She joined MSM in October, 2018 to design, implement and lead three (3) Shared Services Centers providing institutional support for Research Administration, Human Resources and Finance. With over 25 years of research administration experience, Tamara has served in many capacities at the department and central level at various institutions. This includes serving as an Accountant and Sr. Business Administrator at the University of Cincinnati; Manager of Awards Management at UNC Charlote; Assistant Director of Sponsored Programs Financial Administration at the University of Louisville; and Sr. Director of the Cancer & Imaging Research Administration Shared Services Center at Emory University. Tamara jointed NCURA in 1999 and has served in various roles and on various commitees throughout her membership. Tamara was a graduating member of the 2004 Leadership Development Institute (LDI). In 2017, Tamara was an ARMS Global Fellow where she travelled to the University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. On the National level, Tamara has served on the AM 49 Program Commitee, DRA Workshop Development Commitee, 50th Anniversary Commitee and the Professional Development Commitee (PDC). At the Regional Level, with Region IV, Tamara has served as an At Large Board Member and Awards Commitee Chair. Other Region IV Commitee activity includes the membership, nominating and several program commitees. For Region III, Tamara serves on the Philanthropy Commitee. Tamara has presented over 100 national, regional and local presentations and workshops. In addition, she served as a NCURA DRA Workshop Faculty during the BETA testing.


Rick Roberts headshot

Rick Roberts, PhD, CRA, CPRA, CFRA is the Director of Finance and Administration for the Neurobiology Department & Neuroscience Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine. He has been a Certified Research Administrator since 2009 and is a current board member of the Research Administrators Certification Council (RACC). Rick has over 25 years of experience in Research Administration.


Empowering Your Path: Navigating Professional Growth and Accelerating Your Career

Candice Ferguson headshot

Candice Ferguson, is the Associate Director of Research Training within the department of University Research Services and Administration. In this role, she develops and implements professional development programs for faculty and staff who manage research and other sponsored projects. She has implemented multiple programs to provide a professional development pathway for research administrators including the Panther TRACKS Program, Best Practices Series, and the Certified Research Administrator Summer Camp.

Ms. Ferguson participates in the Improving Research Administration Group and the Research Administration Departmental Group to continue improving areas of research administration and alleviating faculty administrative burden. She is an active member of the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) and has taught several workshops and published articles related to training development and managing multiple generations in the workplace.

Prior to joining Georgia State University, Ms. Ferguson was the Research Education & Communications Manager at the Georgia Institute of Technology where she directed the Departmental Research Administration Certification Program. She is a Certified Research Administrator, a Certified Financial Research Administrator, and holds a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design & Technology and a Bachelor's Degree in Biology from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.


Deanna Hendrickson headshot

Deanna Hendrickson has over 25 years’ experience in administration, accounting, and organizational leadership, including 16+ within research administration serving in both departmental and central research administration roles in the areas of pre-award, post-award and compliance. She is now responsible for training development, assessment, outreach and strategic support in the Office of Sponsored Programs at Georgia Tech. Deanna became a Certified Research Administrator in December 2012 and earned her BBA from Kennesaw State University.