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Staff Q&A: Stephanie Maras, MA

Garett Griffith

Stephanie Maras, MA, is a research administrator in the Basic Science Administration (BSA) at Feinberg. She supports a wide range of investigators and is interested in improving the life cycle of research administration, relieving investigators of that burden so they can focus on science.

Where are you originally from?

I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago.

What is your educational background?

I’ve attended several kinds of schools, but I’m a Chicago Public Schools kid at heart. I attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern, completing my undergraduate degree in organization behavior. This spring I graduated with a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Northwestern.

Please tell us about your professional background.

Before I migrated to Northwestern in 2018, I spent ten years at the University of Chicago working in research administration, including research center and program management. For the majority of my time at the University of Chicago, I helped build and manage a Nobel laureate’s large economics research center, from grant writing, administration and reporting to project management, conferences, human resources and financial management.

One of my more unusual projects was repurposing two historic homes into office space, and because of that experience I will never design or build my own house. After I left that position, I served as a grants officer in their central sponsored research office for two years.  

Why do you enjoy working at Northwestern?

As a research administrator in Basic Science Administration (BSA), I’m excited to support amazing scientists who are dedicated to fighting insidious diseases like HIV. In doing so, I’m able to work at both the BSA and laboratory level to really understand the life cycle of research administration at Northwestern, satisfying my natural curiosity about how systems and processes work and how to improve on them.

Northwestern’s inclusive environment, investment in my professional development and my wonderful peers have also really made the past two years very meaningful to me.

How do you help scientists and/ or research students at the medical school?

Aside from BSA responsibilities, I primarily support Dr. Thomas Hope’s lab in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. Working with approximately 25 scientists, technicians and students, I support grant proposal development and submission as well as award management.

This encompasses matters such as financial management, compliance, and reporting. I strive to help scientists with their administrative burden so they can focus on research.

What is your favorite part of the job?

Aside from the Hope laboratory’s amazing mission and my BSA peers, I particularly enjoy working with early-career scientists. My service orientation and curiosity easily coalesce when helping young investigators pursue sometimes unusual opportunities or learn to manage their awards to further their research goals. I think the hallmark of a successful lab is the success of its young scientists, and learning to obtain and use grant funds appropriately are vital skills which will help them reach the next level of their career.

What exciting projects are you working on?

Dr. Hope and his team have been invited to participate in Operation Warp Speed to find a vaccine for COVID-19, and I have been proud to support the team’s effort. I’ve been so impressed with the resiliency of the lab and BSA as we find a new normal, and I’m really happy to be involved in SARS-CoV-2 research, however tangentially.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to explore my imperfect city. Pre-COVID that included walking around with my AIA guide, checking out concerts and neighborhood festivals, volunteering with groups like the Chicago Metro History Fair, or visiting favorite haunts like the Art Institute, Music Box Theater or Wrigley Field — I’m one of the few, but proud, south side Cubs fans. Currently, reading has substituted for a lot of activities these days, but I look forward to resuming my explorations.

Anything else we should know about you?

Instead of baking sourdough during the shutdown, I accidentally started a greenhouse in my apartment and jungle on my back porch. I’m going to have a lot of tomatoes.