August 27, 2013

APAC Profile

APAC Member Ben Ramirez Fighting for AP Recognition

By Lucia Gonzalez

BEN RAMIREZ has worked at UIC for nine years as the Director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Facility in the Center for Structural Biology. Ramirez joined APAC because he felt that the roles and the value of Academic Professionals often are understated and underappreciated.

RAMIREZ’S MAIN responsibilities include maintaining the NMR instruments, coordinating the user schedule, training new users, and assisting with the implementation of new experiments. The instruments are used by UIC researchers to study molecules.

GROUPS IN Biochemistry use the NMR to study the structures and dynamics of proteins in solution. These groups also study how proteins interact with other proteins, biomolecules such as DNA, or small molecules.
“THE LATTER possibility is very exciting and very powerful, as this enables the potential discovery of novel therapeutic compounds,” Ramirez explained.

GROUPS IN Pharmacy use NMR to characterize and identify new small molecules—often referred to as natural products— with the goal of finding new therapeutics. Of course, there are various amounts of other research that is being conducted at UIC with NMR.

“WE ARE very fortunate here at UIC to have this instrumentation here on campus to be accessible to any researcher,” Ramirez said. “Our facility is equipped just as well as any other NMR facilities found in top-flight research institutions in this country.”

WHEN RAMIREZ first joined APAC, one of his first activities was being involved in serving on the search committee for the Vice Chancellor for Research. Ramirez considers this as a great learning experience that enabled him to meet with other UIC employees whom he may never have encountered in his typical work environment.

“BY BEING exposed to this small swath of UIC, one can begin to understand people’s different viewpoints,” Ramirez said. “This was also very illuminating and enriching.”

RAMIREZ GAINS a good deal of satisfaction in being able to use and share his knowledge and training to help shape and hone future researchers. His greatest hope is that his involvement with APAC yields improvements in job quality and stability for all APs. He would like to see more recognition and attention paid to APs involved in basic research, many of whom are at the front lines of research and contribute vastly to the UIC research enterprise.

“WHEN CHALLENGING economic or financial times arise, APs are often perceived as the most expendable,” mentioned Ramirez. “This group should also be recognized for their role in educating and training.”

BESIDES HIS research with NMR, Ramirez is engaged in several other collaborative research projects. Most of his time is spent with his wife, Sandra, and their two young daughters, ages 5 and 8. He enjoys outdoor activities such as biking and hiking. While at home he likes to cook, especially tinkering with recipes and adding his own twist and a personal touch. Ramirez particularly enjoys baking cookies at Christmastime to give to friends and family.


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