Distinguished Staff Award
Photograph of Barbara Purington

Barbara Purington

Administrator, Applied Physics

Nominated by Tom Matula, Director, CIMU

Awarded 2016

By this letter we would like to nominate Barbara Purington, for the Distinguished Staff Award for sustained excellence a UW Administrator and for extraordinary effort in establishing an NIH Program Project Grant.

Barb Purington has been an administrator in the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) for 5 years and in Department of Dental Public Health Sciences (now Oral Health Sciences (OHS)) for the previous 8. Administrators manage the human resources, finances, and regulations of their groups and oversee fiscal specialists. They are often administrative support for the chair and faculty. There are many UW Administrators and many will be nominated.

Barb is one of the best Administrators at UW. We list some reasons. Barb beat out over 30 qualified internal and external applicants to join the APL Center for Industrial and Medical Ultrasound (CIMU) department. CIMU drew Barb away from OHS where Barb was awarded the 2010 School of Dentistry Distinguished Staff Award. The first 2 sentences of Barb’s job description explain CIMU is a large department with 50 people funded entirely by 80 separate federal grants totaling $10M. The third sentence says “Two (2) CIMU Administrators are tasked with the department’s financial management, grant and contract management, personnel management, salary administration, and enhancing the productivity and efficiency of the CIMU’s research projects and personnel.” However within a year, though changes out of Barb’s control, Barb was doing the job alone. As such out of the over 300 APL employees, Barb was awarded the APL Director’s Award the lab’s highest honor in 2013.

Barb then doubled her responsibilities. On top of her other duties, over two years, Barb led the effort to obtain and establish one of NIH’s largest and most complex grants, a P01 Program Project Grant. Of the UW’s 704 NIH grants, only 3 including ours have been P01 grants. This $9M grant alone funds research by over 50 individuals spread across 7 universities. Barb was forced to debug an entirely new NIH submission process and a new electronic subcontract management process at UW. Barb read and translated hundreds of pages of rules and instruction: Dr. Handa, a sub-contract Lead, wrote “Barb was warm, calming and patient during our many telephone conversations when we were at the most stressed to pull the required information together.” The Office of Sponsored Projects, which oversees all UW proposal submissions, reported that all 800 pages that Barb entered were “flawless.” Barb established all subcontracts within 6 weeks when historically P01 subcontracts require 6 months. Barb then guided the team through a successful annual renewal.

While doing this extra work, Barb continued to exceed her job description and expectation in many other ways some of which are summarized here.

In the most critical months of the P01 submission, Barb drove Camilo Perez, a student with a broken leg, to work and doctors appointments.

When co-worker Marla Paun passed away, Barb hung a photograph and plaque and obtained approval to name the conference room in Marla’s honor.

Rather than just submit a proposal Barb calls Lynn French at OSP so Lynn can plan appropriately.

Although postdoc Julianna Simon’s appointment is in the Mechanical Engineering department, Barb handles all the administration of the grant for her and notifies Sue Chen in ME.

In short, Barb Purington was singularly honored for her excellent work then went well beyond in leading a giant successful grant submission and continued to go beyond in taking care of the people with whom she works.

In her competence, productivity, and care, Barb exhibits the six UW values and deserves the DSA.

Integrity. Integrity is Barb’s strongest and most important attribute. She is our wise and careful watchdog of regulations. She protects the UW, department, and individuals. All seek her wise, knowledgeable, and honest advice. Some recent questions Barb answered include: Can we apply to this solicitation that does not pay overhead? Can I write a letter on an employee’s behalf regarding jury duty? Jeff is out of funding; can we hire him on the grant? What is the process for managing conflict of interest in starting a company?

Diversity. Barb is the only group manager in CIMU, and her office is CIMU’s focal point. Every new hire first meets Barb. Many are summer students or visiting foreign professors, in which case Barb helps them with housing, visas, groceries, and travel. Barb is also the point-of-contact with consultants, collaborators, and sponsors and works with everyone who works with CIMU for the length of their interaction.

Excellence. Lynn French’s comment “flawless” summarizes Barb’s demonstration of this value. If a proposal has one error once submitted, it is rejected, and we must wait at least 4 months to re-submit.

Collaboration. Faculty and administrators at other departments and universities and officers at industry and federal sponsors coordinate with Barb on a steady stream of documents. Barb is the hub of these communications.

Innovation. Barb has had to innovate for efficiency since her job has steadily grown. For example, Barb remade the tracking of funding to have a safety net that everyone is funding. Also, Barb must constantly innovate problem solutions given the regulations. Barb is not a gatekeeper that prevents things from being done but instead seeks to work with people to find a solution that satisfies the rules.

Respect. Barb maintains respect through clear even communication even in stressful situations. We all have respect for her competence and dedication. This is evidenced by the eagerness with which her previous employers join in this nomination. Barb puts in long hours. Likewise, Barb has respect for each person in the team as evidenced by knowing their skills and watching out that their needs are met including funding and office assignments.

In closing, this nomination process has deepened our appreciation of Barb’s excellence. Many great words about Barb had to be omitted. While we wrote, Barb submitted five proposals, guiding 2 new PIs and a new administrator, in other departments, through a completely new NASA application process. We cannot underscore enough the great effort and stress required for every single proposal submission. Barb worked through Veteran’s Day and gave up some vacation days scheduled for Monday and Tuesday to help these other departments, and all the proposals were submitted on time without error.

Finally, Barb is not superwoman and does not work all the time. Barb lunches with different friends most every day and on Wednesdays takes an extended lunch to care for her granddaughter. Although Barb canceled some vacation days, she still hosted friends for a surprise party Sunday. Among her many interests Barb is a barbeque tasting judge who travels for events. Barb is downto-earth, and others come across as more the high-powered person we described than Barb does. Barb just pleasantly and wisely steps up wherever she can help and finds a way to complete things correctly and on time.

Thomas Matula, PhD, CIMU Director
CIMU Principal Investigators: Andrew Brayman, PhD Lawrence Crum, PhD, John Kucewicz PhD and others
Pierre Mourad, PhD, Prof. UW Bothell
Oleg Sapozhnikov, DSc Moscow State University
Lisa Heaton, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Dept. of Oral Health Sciences

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