'Indispensable' grant coordinator helps KU researchers shine

A graphic shows Beth Benfield on the right and text boxes on the left that read, "Unsung Hero, Beth Benfield, Strong Hall Shared Service Center"

Beth Benfield | Grant Coordinator Senior | Strong Hall Shared Service Center | November 2019

Maggie Witek’s Ph.D. in analytical chemistry serves her well as an associate research professor in the Soper Research Group at KU, where she develops micro- and nano-scale lab-on-a-chip devices for biomedical applications.

But she occasionally feels clueless about Excel spreadsheets containing project budgets.

That’s why Beth Benfield is her hero. Benfield, grant coordinator senior in the Strong Hall Shared Service Center, expertly monitors accounts and approves spending on complex sponsored projects so that Witek and other investigators in the Department of Chemistry can focus on their research.

“Beth has a huge amount of patience for us as PIs,” Witek said. “She comes to our building every month, holds our hands and explains whether we’re in the red or in the black and how to fix that. She cleans up all the messes we make, and she does it with a smile.”

Benfield’s long history at the University of Kansas enhances her effectiveness, according to colleagues. She worked in the chemistry department for 18 years before moving to the SSC in December 2013 when KU centralized transaction-based activities.

“A lot of weird questions come up when someone has a grant and you’re trying to make sure they follow all the rules,” a co-worker said. “Because she has a lot of experience and connections at KU, Beth is able to see the big picture and put together pieces that make things easier for people.”

Benfield is also a conscientious educator who understands when to get closely involved with teaching new skills and trouble-shooting problems, and when to take a step back because someone is confidently moving forward with a project. That’s true for researchers, the two staff members that she supervises, and other colleagues.

“She is excellent at checking in with people and giving them the time and attention they need,” a co-worker said.

Witek agreed: “Beth is absolutely indispensable for us.”