Be compliant, be safe, and be efficient: It’s crucial for laboratories to strike a balance between these three core tenets.
Thanks to the hard work of Catherine Martini, the Biomedical Research Laboratory (BRL) on George Mason University's Science and Technology Campus has found the perfect equilibrium.
Martini, BS Biology ’88, remembers Mason from her time as a student: “When SUB I was the center of campus, eating pizza at ‘The Rat’ was the in thing, and parking in K lot felt like you were in a different state.”
Since returning to Mason in 2020 as a biosafety officer, Martini has made marked improvements to the BRL’s culture of compliance, as well as reduced the number of reportable incidents. She has worked diligently with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulators to rectify identified issues, including stepping into the role of responsible officer of the BRL’s Federal Select Agent Program (SAP), in addition to her other duties. As a result, this year’s CDC inspection was near perfect: a historic best for the BRL.
“Catherine’s team-oriented approach, disciplined attention to compliance issues, and professionalism is a testament to her dedication to Mason’s success and safety of Mason employees,” said David Farris, executive director of Safety and Emergency Management. “Catherine’s efforts have demonstrated to the CDC, our faculty and staff, and our peers that George Mason University is committed to making Mason a safe place to work and learn."
“Her relationship skills on display at the BRL are a shining example of the Mason value: We thrive together,” said Julie Zobel, associate vice president of Safety, Emergency, and Enterprise Risk Management.
“Catherine has gone above and beyond to elevate the safety of the program and continue to diligently work to make the program better,” said Rachel Pepin, Director of Research Support Operations for the Biomedical Research Laboratory. “Her presence and clear dedication have strengthened the safety of the BRL’s Federal Select Agent Program and her collaborative, engaged, and positive demeanor is an asset to the facility, program, and Mason.”
How you got to Mason
I came back to Mason after working for almost 20 years at American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), a biological resource center located across the street from the SciTech campus. While at ATCC I worked in Regulatory Compliance, Biosafety, and as the Alternate Responsible Official for their Select Agent Program (SAP).
Best day on the job
This will sound a bit odd, but I really like it when CDC comes out to inspect our Select Agent Program. It gives us the opportunity to showcase our High Containment Laboratories, the research that is done here, and to highlight our exceptional program, which includes the personnel and the comprehensive level of training that they complete. The inspections also afford us the opportunity to learn and to improve our program. The staff and students at the BRL are incredibly talented, intelligent, and just an exceptional group of people to work with, and they contribute to the success of our Select Agent program every single day.
What do you like best about working at Mason
The people. Everyone is incredibly friendly and always eager to help. The work environment fosters communication and cooperation, and there are always learning and professional development opportunities available. On top of that is the ability to attend conferences and to network with other research personnel.
What do you like to do when you’re not working
I love snuggling with my fur babies. I have many and they are very demanding. I love kayaking, hiking, visiting museums, and catching the latest big screen movie. I would really like to catch some baseball games again, but I’m still waiting on the Nats to re-sign all the good players they let go.