Naomi Wood is a matchmaker. The research connect specialist in the Office of Grants and Contracts helps connect researchers not only to funding opportunities but to other researchers on campus with common interests. She's always looking for ways to help them find collaborators and funding to support their research projects. This program — connecting funding and researchers to each other — was the brainchild of a ‘Shark Tank'-like faculty pitch at the 2016 Planning Implementation Workshop. Wood was hired in early 2017 to fill the role.
“I love serving the role of research matchmaker on campus because not only is it a unique position within a large university, but I personally enjoy seeing projects come together out of connecting people and ideas together,” says Wood. “It's rewarding to see talented researchers connect to funding or to a person they might not otherwise have met on their own.”
Wood doesn't operate alone. She works with research staff from the different colleges on campus to vet and disseminate external funding opportunities that are unique to their faculty researchers. As faculty researchers are busy conducting their own research and managing their labs, they may not cross paths with other faculty from different UNT areas or disciplines. Wood's special role on campus as a matchmaker helps researchers to connect the dots with people and with opportunity, which is instrumental in strengthening collaboration and the UNT research enterprise.
When Wood is not matchmaking, she's editing proposals before they are submitted — a new service her office is offering. Collaborative research brings more ideas, more areas of expertise and more resources together and has the capacity to help solve some of the world's biggest challenges. Complex problems often need to be approached from multiple angles, and funding agencies are making priorities to support more interdisciplinary projects than before.
“Two heads are better than one,” says Wood, “It's a cliché, but it's true. And I would not be so quick to call interdisciplinary research a trend. It's more of a transition. Funding agencies have recognized a need to fund projects that are breaching scientific boundaries and disciplines.”
To help spark collaboration, the Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Office of Research and Innovation and the Division of Advancement will host a Research Matchmaking Mixer from 4 to 6 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the Presidential Suite at the University Union, Room 406. Faculty researchers will have the opportunity to network, with the goal of forming collaborative partnerships. Faculty are invited to meet and mingle with other researchers from across campus and may register for the event here. Appetizers, wine and beer will be provided, and those attending will be entered in a raffle for prize money to be used for travel to a conference, workshop or program manager visit.
Recent funding opportunities for UNT researchers are available on the Research Connect website at https://research.unt.edu/researchconnect. Wood also sends out a monthly interdisciplinary funding newsletter to a listserv that highlights additional opportunities.
A key component of Wood's role on campus is introducing researchers to Pivot, a robust external funding database allowing scholars to search for public and private grants, fellowships, scholarships, awards and prizes as well as opportunities for collaborations. Faculty, staff and students may use Pivot to search for funding opportunities.
“Pivot is the gold standard in funding databases,” explains Wood. “It's updated with newly confirmed opportunities every day by Pivot editors and makes our jobs a lot easier.”
Pivot provides an entry point for almost $50 billion in funding. Faculty needing assistance with navigating Pivot or vetting opportunities for funding are encouraged to contact Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org or 940-565-3252.