Davis envisions research collaboration as key to change

Cheryl Davis never imagined herself as the associate provost for the office of research and creative activity for Western Kentucky University. Her experience in this position and her role as a board member of the Western Kentucky University Research Foundation, however, have helped her carry out her desire to connect researchers to one another to solve world problems.

“Stepping into the role of associate provost wasn’t on my radar. My plan had been to continue in research and teaching for the remainder of my career,” Davis said. “However, I realized this was something that would allow me to work with faculty, students and staff at WKU and have a broader and bigger impact.”

Davis earned her B.S. and M.S degrees in Zoology at the University of Oklahoma and her Ph.D at Wake Forest University in Immunoparasitology. She began her career at WKU as a biology professor and spent her first 25 years studying parasitic diseases.

“I loved the science itself, the questions, the fascinating life cycles, the whole biology of it,” Davis said. “Also, the possibility that my research might contribute to understanding those diseases and finding ways to treat or prevent them was a big appeal for me.”

In 2001, Davis began working with the Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network as WKU’s lead faculty representative. This opportunity has served as a segue into her current position.

“Our group worked on grant proposals to the National Institutes of Health to bring funding to scientists and investigators at Kentucky public institutions for biomedical research,” Davis said. “Through this role, I worked closely with the office of sponsored programs at WKU and learned more about their world.”

Today, the office offers grant workshops and training sessions each fall, spring and summer semesters to provide WKU faculty and staff more information about grants and how to find funding for their research.

Davis said the workshops cover all aspects of grant funding from identifying a funding source and building a competitive proposal to managing the grant once it has been awarded.

“We also offer a segment on intellectual property for those interested in patenting, copyrighting or trademarking their findings, as well as a segment on research compliance,” Davis said. “Having been an active researcher I know what is like to be on the other side as a faculty member who is proposing the research and seeking the funding, and now with my current position, I also see the administrative side.”

Davis’s ex officio board member role with the WKURF provides the opportunity to bring her knowledge and expertise from the office of research and creative activity in an advisory capacity.

As associate provost, one of her favorite aspects of this position is to learn more about the creative and research activities happening on the WKU campus.

“When you’re a faculty member you tend to know a lot about your department, but now I’m at a connective level learning about the impressive work happening across the campus,” Davis said.

Although Davis is just beginning to grasp how her position could facilitate more research interactions, she sees an opportunity for more grant funding as researchers work together toward larger projects.

“That is the future,” she said. ‘The world is becoming more complex and technology is advancing rapidly,” Davis said. “If we can combine those skills, expertise and technologies together, then that would be powerful. The potential is huge.”