Running BIO5 Facility With a Keen Science Mind and an iPad

Running BIO5 Facility With a Keen Science Mind and an iPad

By Lisa RomeroBIO5 Institute
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Robert Sandoval, facilities and planning manager for the UA BIO5 Institute, ensures the smooth operation of the Keating Building.
Robert Sandoval, facilities and planning manager for the UA BIO5 Institute, ensures the smooth operation of the Keating Building.

The BIO5 Institute in the Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch Building is home to more than 180 researchers in 40 labs, each with modernized amenities and advanced technologies that propel the progress of numerous world-class research projects. But just one man holds the responsibility and expertise to control the intricacies of the building with a touch on his never-absent iPad.

As BIO5's facilities and planning manager, Robert Sandoval ensures that the intricate and vast Keating Building operates smoothly every day. From vacuum pumps and water lines in each laboratory to chemical lines in the basement, Sandoval observes and monitors the utilities within the building. Addressing the needs of diverse faculty members, envisioning and initiating building enhancements and securing a safe environment are daily focuses.

Sandoval graduated from the University of Arizona in 1999 with degrees in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology. Fourteen years later, he remains involved with advancing the University as a renowned research institution through his work at BIO5.

"I really enjoy this job," Sandoval says. "It gives me a unique opportunity in that not all campus units have a staff person with a science background in the building administration department."

Sandoval leans heavily on his own years of lab experience to help him predict and fulfill BIO5 researchers' needs. Under the supervision of Vicki Chandler, former director of the BIO5 Institute, Sandoval investigated gene expression in plants and animals. He also participated in Richard Jorgensen’s lab, again working with gene expression as it pertains to chromatin-based control. When he transitioned to a staff role managing the facility, Sandoval brought with him the innate ability to relate to and communicate with researchers due to this unique background.

As BIO5 fosters collaboration between more than 20 UA colleges and departments, the need to manage faculty from various scientific backgrounds is crucial. According to Dr. Fernando Martinez, director of the BIO5 Institute, "We are very fortunate to have Robert, who embraces a keen awareness of all of the science that occurs within BIO5, as well as across the UA campus."

"He knows who's in our labs and other building areas, how they're funded, the research projects that they work on and how the space is utilized," Martinez explained. "We do space surveys and other types of reporting, as well as informal check-ins with faculty, and Robert is integral to all of this coming together seamlessly."

Upholding the Keating Building as a sustainable institute of science benefits the University in ways other than research. Always looking for new ways to promote green efforts, Sandoval is a member of EcoOps, a group of employees and alumni under the umbrella of the UA Office of Sustainability that focuses on making the UA a more environmentally sustainable place to work, study and play.

One example of this was the movement to recycle pipette tip boxes and Styrofoam transport boxes. "We recycle about 200 to 250 pounds of polypropylene plastic every week and BIO5 was the first on campus to implement an effort this large," Sandoval said. "Without recycling, all of that would be sitting in a landfill."

In addition to managing the Keating Building, Sandoval also oversees the operations and management of the BIO5 Media Facility, which is the only Good Laboratory Practices-qualified media facility on campus. It provides microbiological media, plant tissue culture media, buffers, custom mammalian cell culture media and other formulations tailored to specific research needs. A diverse customer base of University researchers, bioindustry and educational institutions both on and off campus allows the operation to purchase bulk quantities for savings of up to 88 percent over competitors' pricing, without sacrificing the high quality service and products for which it is known.

Sandoval takes pride in collaborating with others to achieve goals. It should come as no surprise that his leadership abilities and team-first attitude translate to more than his role as building manager.

Sandoval also is an active member of the UA's Appointed Professionals Advisory Council, which represents professional employees by taking an active role in shared governance and advising University administration and other UA organizations on enhancing the quality of career life for all appointed personnel by providing advocacy, information and resources.

"This job offers me a lot of different opportunities, having come from science and having an inquisitive nature, wanting to problem solve, and facing unique challenges every day," Sandoval said.

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