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Lawson_BrendaThe administrator who has ensured ethical treatment for people who are the subjects of UT research projects is stepping away from that responsibility after almost a quarter century.

Brenda Lawson, compliance officer for the Office of Research and Engagement, will retire on June 30. A reception in her honor will be held from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 2, in the Carolyn P. Brown University Center Executive Dining Room.

Lawson, who has administered the university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), joined the research office in May 1991 as an assistant to the university’s compliance coordinator. When that job became vacant, Lawson was named compliance officer. For several years she also was responsible for compliance with lab-animal guidelines, radiation safety, and biosafety.

“I’ve enjoyed playing a role in the university’s research successes,” Lawson said. “Compliance with human subject guidelines is crucial if UT is to continue its research program.”

The field has seen major changes during Lawson’s tenure in the office.

“We still have the same guidelines under federal regulations, but we’ve added a substantial emphasis on training of faculty and student researchers,” Lawson said. “Funding agencies want you to prove to them that you know how to protect human subjects.”

Though the office’s workload has more than doubled, Lawson said that awareness of human subjects guidelines has grown substantially as a result.

“Students and faculty are more willing to comply now,” she said. “Compliance is not that terrible, horrible thing any more. The environment has changed.

“We fixed it by going out into classrooms, holding workshops, and working one-on-one with faculty and students doing research.”

The IRB Lawson convenes to consider student and faculty projects has been loyal to the research mission of the university and to the human subjects whose welfare they safeguard.

“We’ve had IRB members who served for years,” Lawson said. “Including our previous chairperson, Glenn Graber, who recently retired after sixteen years as the chairperson and thirty years on the IRB.” Graber is professor emeritus in philosophy.

Lawson is leaving compliance activities in the hands of her colleagues, including Robert Nobles, who was named assistant vice chancellor for research compliance earlier this year. Nobles, who has a doctorate in public health, headed research compliance at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston before coming to UT.