It’s unusual to find Iwona Spath at the front of a room without an agenda, but that’s what happened when the biological safety specialist found herself the center of attention during a November 7 Northwestern Research awards event where she was recognized for her outstanding contributions.
Over her more than 15 years with the University, Spath has developed — and presented — hundreds of lessons, each meticulously planned to enhance the protection of people, the public, and the environment.
Although her core responsibilities include assisting principal investigators with recombinant DNA submissions and conducting laboratory inspections, Spath reaffirmed her role as a safety advocate and educator with the launch of a multi-campus “Lunch and Learn” seminar series in 2011. Since then, she has invited members of Northwestern’s research community to learn about a range of topics: from pipetting techniques to the proper disposal of biological waste.
Her colleagues formally acknowledged her efforts during the OR STAR (Staff Team Award Recognition), a fall-themed event with festival-style games and raffles.
“At these meetings, Iwona often shares information and educates researchers on new safety improvement tips,” said Jay Walsh, vice president for research, who presented Spath with fall’s OR STAR Award before more than 100 of her peers. “She also recently played a primary role in preparing of the new safety registration system — Lumen — as well as contributed towards modernizing the Institutional Biological Safety Committee.”
Spath said she was honored to receive the award and noted that the Research Safety team creates a workspace where she and others can excel.
“Without a team mentality, we would not have much success in sustaining the culture of research safety at Northwestern,” said Spath, who is a Registered Biosafety Professional. “It was a nice surprise to win this award at a time when Research Safety is continuing its rollout of the Lumen system.”
Spath spent her first six years at Northwestern conducting research on anaerobic bacteria and mice. She says working in a lab helped her better understand some of the challenges that the research community faces — and how she can help mitigate them..
In her OR STAR nomination letter, Spath was credited with helping develop Northwestern’s formal lab safety recognition program — a topic she presented on at the American Biological Safety Association’s annual meeting — Lumen, and the University’s Institutional Biosafety Committee.
“Iwona has helped develop a sense of community within Research Safety and she carries that spirit into all of the research groups she supports,” said Brett Berg, associate director of Research Safety. “She is collaborative and a leader, which ensures that the many events she hosts are successful. Most of all, she is a safety ambassador, always willing to help researchers at any time.”
Staff Honored for Milestones, Service
During November event, Northwestern Provost Jonathan Holloway honored Walsh for his 30 years of service to the University. Walsh and Willie Wiggins, an animal care technician at the Center for Comparative Medicine, received crystal sculptures to commemorate their three decades at Northwestern. Other milestones included:
- Marlon Gregana
- Isaac O’Neal
- Lorraine Runge
- Maurice Coleman
- Brittany Patrick
- Jeanine Shimer
- Anthony Jackson
- Aaron Rosen
- Felicisimo Febrero Fogata
- Sean Perry
- Kevin James
- Julie Cowan
- Anne Henry
- Hollye Fletcher
- Manuel Pedrido Jr
- Markus Schaufele
- Taiche Jones
- Mary Ann Cody
- Rashaan Snerling
- Lisa Forman
Walsh recognized Spath as well as eight other OR STAR Award nominees whose accomplishments earned distinction. They were: Michael Kelley, Alec Henderson, Cathy Neuses, George Harris, Peter Anderson, Mary Ann Cody, Tanikka Mitchell, and Jen Komosamerle.
Since 2007 OR STAR has recognized Northwestern Research employees who demonstrate leadership and support Research goals to achieve excellence at all levels. Nominees reflect the University’s values and promote a workplace culture that embraces collegiality, communication, compliance, customer focus, efficiency, and planning. The OR STAR Award includes a $300 cash prize.
Northwestern Research staff nominated for a Service Excellence Award during the fourth quarter of 2017-18, were:
- Piper Hawkins-Green
- Nathalia Henry
- Lisa Linn
- Alissa Matthies
- Lucas Sikorski
- Braden Van Buskirk
- Jeannie Shimer
- Pamela Hawkins