Kathleen Gerlach left her brand new office at Sidney Frank Hall in 2010 to take on a new challenge at the then small, yet rapidly growing Brown Institute for Brain Science.
With a canny ability to navigate the unpredictable setbacks of the academic and scientific worlds, Gerlach became the Institute’s manager overseeing all grants, gifts and endowments, human resources and building issues, and events.
“When I first started people would confuse brain science and neuroscience; they thought they were one and the same,” Gerlach recalled. “Eventually, brain science did establish its own identity.” And Gerlach got a front row seat to every breakthrough.
In just nine years, she witnessed changes in leadership with a new director and associate director, the addition of multiple research associates and a communications manager, and the creation of new centers and initiatives. She also processed numerous gifts, endowments and grants.
But, for Gerlach, the greatest and most exciting development took place in the spring of 2018 when the Institute received a $100 million namesake gift from Brown alumnus Robert J. Carney and his wife Nancy D. Carney. The gift changed the name of the Brown Institute for Brain Science to the Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science, and established the Institute as one of the best-endowed university brain institutes in the United States.
“It is truly an exciting time for the Institute,” she said. “I anticipate there will be lots of growth, new people and new challenges moving forward. It is a wonderful group of people now, and any additions should only enhance our ability to move forward with the mission and purpose of the Institute.”
It is Carney’s commitment to support research and facilitate collaborations in brain science across Brown that continues to captivate Gerlach – and one of the reasons she enjoys her position.
The best part of her job, she said, is working in a high-energy office where “things can change in a second.”
“I enjoy working on grants and the tight deadlines. It gets your adrenaline flowing when there is a submission,” Gerlach said. “There is so much variety; it is impossible to get bored.”
In addition to managing all financial aspects of the Institute, Gerlach provides logistical support to faculty for multi-departmental, multidisciplinary grant proposal submissions. According to Jerome Sanes, professor of neuroscience, Gerlach has been instrumental in applications for prominent grants from the National Institutes of Health’s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program.
“Kathy contributed—and continues to do so—outstanding support for the successful Phase I and Phase II COBRE applications and financial management oversight for our National Institute of General Medical Sciences-funded center,” said Sanes, director of Carney’s Center for Central Nervous System Function and the MRI Research Facility. “She always has responded quickly and with expert information and advice.”
According to Carney Institute Director Diane Lipscombe, Gerlach is behind every grant application, award and philanthropic gift.
“Extremely competent, professional, knowledgeable, conscientious, and with a great sense of humor, Kathy is at the heart of what makes the Carney Institute special,” Lipscombe said. “Faculty and staff tell me time and time again of how much they value working with Kathy. We are incredibly fortunate to have Kathy on the team.”
Gerlach came to Brown in 2004 after working at a medical software company in the Boston area. She started her Brown career in the cashier’s office and joined the Department of Neuroscience a year and a half later, where she was a financial coordinator for two and a half years.
Gerlach served on the University’s Staff Advisory Council for one term, and she is a member of the National Council of University Research Administrators.