Patrick Scopa Wins New Employee Staff IMPACT Award
Patrick Scopa may be a fan of The Twilight Zone and the show’s paranormal plot twists, but when it comes to his daily work, everything adds up.
As a financial administrator in the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, Scopa keeps track of millions of dollars in research funding on behalf of the Centre’s investigators. To him, it’s all about helping people.
“I enjoy taking care of the needs of the faculty, students, research associates and postdocs to help them focus on their research,” he says.
Universally liked and respected, Scopa has now been formally recognized for his work by the New Employee Staff IMPACT Award. The annual prize is given to a recently appointed staff member at the Faculty of Medicine “who has exhibited strong performance and potential for career development,” according to the FoM website.
Read about Renée Brost, former Manager of Finance and Administration, and Bryan San Luis, Research Technician in the Boone lab, who previously won the Staff IMPACT awards in 2017.
“I enjoy taking care of the needs of the faculty, students, research associates and postdocs to help them focus on their research” - Patrick Scopa, Financial Administrator in the Donnelly Centre
When Scopa, 28, joined the Donnelly Centre in 2017, he did not feel out of place in a research environment. He had worked for two years as a research assistant in a psychology lab at McMaster University where he studied attention and memory after earning a double major in biology and psychology. And while he enjoyed research, he felt his skills could be better applied to supporting other scientists.
“I wanted to be involved in the research without necessarily doing the research myself,” he says.
When he saw a job posting for a finance and research assistant in the Donnelly Centre, he applied, hoping that his strong background in math would make up for the lack of experience in finance. He quickly learned the ropes and found, to his surprise, that years of waiting tables at his aunt’s Italian restaurant, Mastros, helped prepare him for the job.
“I realized that admin and finance is a lot about customer service — it’s about helping people— and I had a lot of experience in that,” he says. Scopa started working part time at the restaurant when he was 16 and he still helps out occasionally.
Scopa started off by splitting this time supporting Gary Bader, a professor of computer science in the Donnelly Centre, and helping out in Centre’s main administrative office. Bader quickly saw Scopa’s potential and soon, in addition to overseeing the lab’s budget, helping prepare research grant applications, employee contracts and other duties, he was also asked to give feedback on research manuscripts. Meanwhile, the work in the main office kept him busy with processing expense reimbursements and invoices and for a period of time he also covered at the reception desk when staff numbers were low. Scopa took it all in stride. “I like being engaged and doing many different things where you are not pigeonholed into one category,” he says.
“Patrick has made an important contribution to the Donnelly Centre through his outstanding work and support of many important administrative activities,” says Bader. “I commend him on achieving the New Employee Staff IMPACT award!”
After 14 months on the job, Scopa was promoted to the position of Financial Administrator in which he now oversees the lab budgets on behalf of 10 Principal Investigators. Recently, he joined the Mentorship Program at the Faculty of Medicine which paired him with more senior staff as a way of exploring other finance careers at U of T and beyond.
“I am not sure if I want to stay in finance directly but the program helps me see if I need further education or training for whatever path I decide to take,” he says. “I do like finance, but if I stay in it, I do not just want to make money for the sake of it. To me, money is a means to an end — to help people.”
The Staff IMPACT awards were awarded at the Faculty of Medicine’s annual Staff Recognition Barbeque on June 25, 2019.
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