The Secret Life of a Research Administrator | Kevin Titus
“The Secret Life of a Research Administrator” column is meant to facilitate more personal connections between SRAI members through the Catalyst newsletter. If you would like to share with the community or know of someone who will, please submit your article here.
Many times, our personal life experiences prepare us for our work lives and vice versa. Research Administration and SCUBA have both done that for me. Of course, swimming with sharks certainly comes to mind on both fronts. I’ve been SCUBA diving for more than 30 years, though, like many hobbies, there was a long hiatus when our kids were born and as they grew up. It was really great to reignite that passion a few years ago as we brought our two kids into the fun and they got certified. I just recently returned from our best vacation ever – a two-week trip to the Caribbean island of Bonaire. Diving 2-3 times every day on our own schedule, in an environment full of the most colorful variety of fish, corals, and other sea creatures was total bliss. I even got to check off a bucket-list item of finding a seahorse; twice!
As we go through life, we hopefully learn as we go, and our confidence gradually increases as we encounter new situations and practice routines. This applies to both work and play. Learning and the associated experiences better enables and prepares us to respond appropriately in unexpected tough situations. As my wife and I reflected on our recent dives, we were very pleased that when we encountered a couple of potentially life-threatening situations, we responded as we were trained, calmly and safely. Had either one of us panicked, the result could have been horrible. In one situation: imagine my surprise when I very suddenly started breathing in water instead of air through my regulator while at the bottom of the ocean. Yikes! While a rapid assent to the surface would have allowed me to breath, it could have also caused serious injury or death. (Think of a shaken bottle of soda that’s still closed. The gas is still under pressure and compressed in the liquid, but when opened, the gas is allowed to expand and makes a mess. That could have been my blood making a mess in my body.) Thankfully, I very calmly assessed the situation and switched to my alternate air source, pantomimed to my buddy/wife what happened so she knew I was on my alternate air source and we continued the dive safely. Staying calm when faced with a significant problem and literally under a lot of pressure (every 33 feet of depth is equivalent to another atmosphere of pressure) is best when you’re responding with tools you’ve put in place during planning and preparedness stages. This allows us to not panic and the end result is simply yet another problem solved. I have a SCUBA t-shirt that says: “works well under pressure.” It fits me well; pun intended.
This is certainly true in research administration as well. Just like in SCUBA diving, we often see things that look great but are actually very dangerous (fire coral, eels, poisonous lionfish, grants with lots of money but horrible restrictions, highly qualified PIs that are actually on the debarred list) and we need to use appropriate precautions. When we do, it all works out and we’re all safe and having fun!
I’ve been fortunate enough to combine SRAI travel with SCUBA a couple times in Florida and California. The Mississippi River brings too much silt to the New Orleans area for great SCUBA diving, but I’m still looking forward to seeing many of my friends there on land soon. We really need to re-book that Puerto Rico conference that got moved.
“It’s the same planet but a whole new world” applies to SCUBA diving and oftentimes research administration as we’re faced with a totally new circumstance or a new funding mechanism. If we go in with the right tools, our eyes wide open and with a buddy, we can have a wonderful and beneficial experience.
Authored by Kevin Titus, Business Director
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
SRAI At-Large Board Member, SRAI Distinguished Faculty