Karin Scarpinato, Ph.D., a molecular geneticist, was recently appointed associate vice president of the Division of Research. She will help lead the university’s growing research enterprise.
A native of Germany, Scarpinato comes to FAU from the University of Miami (UM), where she served as the assistant provost for research. In this role Scarpinato helped shape and advance UM’s research program by creating a collaborative research support structure and network of South Florida research scientists.
Prior to UM, Scarpinato served as associate dean for research at Georgia Southern University. She was on the faculty of the Wake Forest School of Medicine for the previous nine years. As a postdoctoral fellow, she researched DNA repair at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Durham, NC.
We asked Scarpinato about her background, research interests and how she plans to help investigators navigate the challenges of securing external research funding.
Q. What inspired you to become a scientist?
A. I have a life-long interest in science and processes in nature. This interest was further supported by a high school teacher who challenged me to go beyond ordinary school work and immerse myself in the study of biology. Based on this experience, I made the decision to turn these interests into a life-long career.
Q. Tell us about your key area of research.
A. My specialty is DNA repair. There are a lot of chemicals and factors that can damage DNA. Our cells have a system that can, to some extent, repair these damages. If the repair system is defective, it’s one of the ways you can get cancer.
Q. What interested you about joining the faculty at FAU?
A. I feel very in step with the university’s research efforts, and am very impressed with the organizational efforts put in place, and leadership that is behind FAU’s growth as a public research university. I believe this is an excellent time to be part of this movement.
Q. How do you deal with the myriad of funding challenges and competition for grant money?
A. Because the competition is strong, the Division of Research is holding workshops for faculty on the cusp of writing grants. It is our goal to provide these faculty members with support to guide them through the grant-writing process. I’ve set up writing bootcamps that are eight-10 weeks long. They will hopefully introduce young faculty to the basics of grant writing, and serve as a refresher for those faculty members who wish to get back into writing grants.
Q. What has most impressed you about FAU?
A. The teamwork. Everybody works really well as a team here. It’s very invigorating to me and I enjoy that.
Q. What advice do you give faculty pursuing research careers?
A. To actually utilize our services and not just try to do their own thing. Nowadays, you have to go out and find collaborators and get as much assistance as you can in writing your grants. And don't give up. It’s quite difficult to get grants now because of the numerous funding cuts over the last decade. Any health-related research is where most of the grant funding goes, particularly in the area of biomedical research.