Research extensive: Pat Turnbull wins university-wide award


Pat Turnbull
Aiding faculty research efforts across campus—from health initiatives to data processes. Helping secure grants, totaling in the multi-millions. Twenty years of University of Michigan service.

And always being there to listen and problem solve.

Many are familiar with Pat Turnbull’s work ethic and passion.

But now the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs research process manager is being officially recognized throughout the U-M community for it.

Turnbull was recently named a 2016 Distinguished Research Administrator.

The Distinguished Research Administrator Award is open to research administrators in any unit in the U-M campus community, and recognizes exemplary service to the research community.

“No one told me that I was nominated. It was such a nice surprise,” said Turnbull, who was nominated by John Cristiano, co-director for research administration.  ‘There are many—hundreds—of people like me helping move our university’s research forward. I feel very honored that out of all the hardworking research administrators out there, they chose me.”

Turnbull first learned that she liked assisting others with their work and teaching work processes when she was managing a 24-hour convenience store to put herself thorough undergraduate school.

“In my early 20s, I was running a Stop’n’go store—it’s similar to a 7/11—and was promoted to be in charge of their management training program. I really enjoyed that. I liked being able to show them people learn the ropes and reach their store goals. I felt like I was helping them,” she said. “But when they stopped doing the training program, working there wasn’t fulfilling anymore. I had to find something else.”

And Turnbull did.

Getting a job-opening tip from a friend, she applied and was hired to an administrative assistant position at U-M Ann Arbor’s School of Public Health, where she used her business degree to assist with the financial side of research efforts.

“At the time, I was on the post-award side, monitoring budgets and projecting spending. But one of my coworkers helped faculty members write proposals. I thought that was so cool. She got to work directly with the faculty to help them secure this grant funding that was so integral for them to get tenure, to publish, and to become experts in their field,” said Turnbull, who came to UM-Dearborn 11 years ago. “I wanted to learn that side of things. A job opening at UM-Dearborn gave me that opportunity.”

Health and Human Services Associate Professor Julie Roddy said she’s worked with Turnbull when conducting many research projects—for the National Institutes of Health, the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and more.

“Pat has helped me secure these research grants. But, more importantly, she provides a never-ending willingness to listen, critique and suggest alternatives when I discuss my research efforts,” Roddy said. “She operates as a solution generator in what sometimes feels like a world of obstacles. Pat cares about the research. She cares about us. She cares about the people our research will positively affect.”

Turnbull said helping faculty contribute to the greater good gives her fulfillment. She’s also been promoted to a manager, so he gets to pass on the knowledge she’s gained and the passion she had for research administration. And, for that, she loves her job.

“Research broadens the knowledge that we have about our world. It’s how developments to better our society, our way of life—medical, engineering, and otherwise—happen,” she said. “To play a small part in that is privilege enough. This award is more than I could have ever expected.”

Back to top of page