Meeting the Research Administrator, Nathan Vanderford
The SRAI Catalyst was fortunate to catch Nathan Vanderford, Ph.D. during a break from his activities as research administrator, junior faculty, Journal of Research Administration editor, and author. Nathan is also the recipient of the SRAI 2020 Hartford-Nicholson Award. He was kind enough to provide insights into his career and current activities
Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
University of Kentucky
SRAI member since 2010
Mark Lucas - Catalyst: Nathan, you’ve been involved with SRAI for many years. Can you share how you got involved and your activities over the years?
Nathan Vanderford: Yes, I started working in research administration in 2009 and joined SRAI in 2010. I was very interested in joining an organization in which I could build my research administration knowledge base and network with other research administrators. I found both in spades with SRAI.
As to my activities with SRAI, I have served on numerous SRAI committees over the years. In particular, I have been heavily involved in SRAI’s Journal of Research Administration (JRA). I served as the deputy editor from 2015 to 2018 and served as editor-in-chief of JRA from 2018 to June 2021. I recently stepped down as editor and have re-joined the editorial board to continue my service to the journal.
Mark Lucas - Catalyst: You have an interesting backstory. You’re a faculty member at the University of Kentucky but have a large administrative and research role.
Nathan Vanderford: Yes, I have a very unique faculty position. About 80% of my time is focused on research administration activities. I am director of administration for a Center for Cancer and Metabolism, assistant director of research and education for the University of Kentucky’s cancer center, and I am director of a cancer training program. For the other 20% of my time, I teach several courses and have a research program focused on youth health promotion and cancer disparities. I love the variety my job provides, the opportunity to work with really smart and motivated researchers, and the privilege of training and mentoring the next generation of scientists.
Mark Lucas - Catalyst: Can you tell us a little about your interest in child cancer and disparities and what you’re doing to help this community?
Nathan Vanderford: My research is focused on the high cancer rates in Kentucky and specifically eastern Kentucky. Kentucky ranks first in the nation in cancer incidence and mortality rates and those rates are highest (by a good bit) in eastern Kentucky. In particular, I work to understand what youth in the area know about cancer and to increase their understanding of cancer in order to lower their cancer risks long-term. In working with youth, I have engaged a group in writing about their experiences with cancer and, in fact, assembled some of these writings into a book of essays titled The Cancer Crisis in Appalachia: Kentucky Students Take ACTION (you can find it on Amazon). I’m also working on a cancer graphic novel that will engage youth about cancer in a unique way to help them think about why cancer rates are so high in their communities.
Mark Lucas - Catalyst: What do you do in your free time when you’re not saving the world?
Nathan Vanderford: Yes, free time. I have two kids (10 and 7) and love to spend time with them. We go on hikes, run, and explore together. They love going to the university to explore the nearly 800 acre campus. We’re on a mission to explore every building on campus. I also love to run and swim on my own and find both very relaxing and energizing!
Learn more about Nathan’s path on episode 2 of SRAI’s Podcast series, Shop Talk, available for free for full members of SRAI!
Authored by Mark Lucas, Chief Administrative Officer
UCLA Departments of Neurobiology & Computational Medicine