Grad assistants help with one-person office
Grad student went on to be rock star’
Laura Noll, MS-candidate, LAT, ILAM, research compliance manager at Radford University in Radford, VA, has had to learn ways to get a lot of research compliance work accomplished on a shoestring budget. She is a one-person office that handles IRB work, IACUC work, and other aspects of research compliance. She has found that it’s very useful to have graduate student assistants help her with the workload. IRB Advisor asked Noll how she trains graduate students to become productive IRB office workers, especially since they work in this role only temporarily.
IRB Advisor: Would you please explain how you are able to use graduate student assistants in the research compliance office?
Noll: When I came here four years ago, the office was set up to use graduate student assistants. A lot of times they would change every semester. I felt this was a very bad idea, and everyone understood.
Out of desperation, we’ve set down some ground rules for my GAs: My 20-hour student stays with me for two years, and no one else can use this student; my 10-hour student is not reallocated, either, but the 10-hour students don’t necessarily stay with me for all two years of their graduate program. The 10-hour student generally only performs protocol intake and approval processing, plus general filing, so the training isn’t as in-depth. But the longer I can keep them, the more efficiently the office will run.
I train them, and they learn office skills and how to interpret the regulations. I use my graduate students at a higher level than most other graduate students on campus. They receive a lot of mentoring and a good internship. They review protocols for completeness and somewhat for content, make basic comments on protocols, shuttle submissions back and forth between the reviewer and principal investigator, and they are doing it all pretty quickly. This is intense training, and some have been overwhelmed, but they catch up and we get it done. My IRB has helped me to streamline some things and make it a somewhat distributed review process rather than to expect too much out of students. By the time the students leave here, though, they are ready to take a job in an IRB office or other compliance-type of office.
IRB Advisor: Where do you find students and how long do they work for you?
Noll: To date, all of my students have come from the psychology department. We have found that it works well to have students from the Department of Psychology, either from the Experimental or Industrial/Organizational concentrations. I try to find students who are about to start the first semester of their master’s program and have them start work in the summer. I try to train them before the start of the fall semester, which is our busiest semester. I don’t need them to be panic-stricken when all of the protocols start to roll in. The students read all kinds of protocols throughout the year, so they get to learn a lot about research, and then by the time they take their research methods course, they already know a fair amount about it because they’ve been reading submissions for so long.
One of my first graduate students took a job in a major university’s IRB office. There were six schools across the country competing for him. He started interviewing for jobs during winter break of his senior year. He’d worked here 1.5 years. He’s a rock star and earned his CIP quickly after starting his new job. Now he’s on a full-board pre-review committee. Before he took the IRB graduate assistantship with me, he was considering going on to a doctorate in psychology after his master’s was complete, but then he fell in love with compliance. I think he’ll find a doctorate program that meshes well with compliance shortly, though.