Much of VTTI’s research centers around studies that depend upon human participants. Whenever that is the case, Christine Link-Owens is the Driving Force who makes sure that the volunteers needed are recruited, scheduled, and show up for the research study.
Christine and her team excel at recruiting people with all types of backgrounds so each study’s particular requirements can be met with the best pool of possible participants while adhering to all requirements as set by the statement of work and Virginia Tech’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), the organization that oversees procedures for ethical and safe research involving human subjects. Christine supervises 8 to 15 active projects at a time, while also assisting with proposal budgets and compiling volunteer coordination materials for IRB applications.
Christine joined VTTI in 2007 as a project assistant working for Luke Neurauter and Eddy Llaneras in the Advanced Product Test Group. The position gave her experience in many areas, such as filling in for the front desk staff; meeting, greeting, and consenting participants; and serving as an in-vehicle experimenter. This role also gave her an opportunity to learn how to recruit and schedule participants, which set the stage for the position she currently holds.
When the Volunteer Coordination Group was formed in 2014, Christine was selected as the manager of the team. She currently oversees eight employees who are tasked with recruiting and scheduling the volunteers needed for each study’s specific requirements. She estimates that she has personally screened over 10,000 individuals over the past 15 years, in addition to the many thousands more that the group has screened.
Christine credits her upbringing, in a home that also served as the home office for the family business, with giving her the tools needed for her current role. She says, “I learned from an early age how to engage on the phone and conduct myself as a ‘receptionist’ which led me to hold this position at many businesses as I put myself through college. From my parents, I learned that the key to success is to work hard, do what you say you are going to do (and with haste, time is money!), and be honest.”
While serving as manager of the Volunteer Coordination Group focuses on working with people, some of her previous positions have revolved around animals. After earning a B.S. with an emphasis on a pre-med curriculum from Virginia Tech, Christine worked as a small animal veterinary technician in private vet clinics before joining the VA-MD Veterinary Teaching Hospital in 1993. She notes that: “My final years with the VT Teaching Hospital found me caring for research animals which is how I was able to make the leap from research with animals to research with human subjects.”
Animals play an important part in Christine’s personal life as well. She has been involved with Giles Animal Rescue since 2007 and she served as president, spay/neuter coordinator, and adoption coordinator for more than 10 years. During her tenure as president, the group was able to move the Giles County shelter from a nearly 80% kill rate to a 2% kill rate. In addition, she believes that the group’s tireless work to educate citizens and fund as many neutering procedures as possible resulted in reducing the number of stray animals in the county.
Christine and her husband (Billy) have raised three children (Jamie, Samantha, and Alexis) and live on a small farm where Christine boards retired performance horses; they have also fostered many dogs over the years. Christine is enjoying being a grandmother to 6-year-old Emerson who also enjoys a pony ride when she gets the chance!
When asked what she likes best about her job, Christine responds: “The diversity of individuals who work at VTTI. There is always something different; no two projects are ever alike and there is always a challenge. I had never before worked where everyone enjoys their work. The people here support each other without hesitation, and there is assistance for any task at hand when needed. There seems to be a high rate of job satisfaction throughout VTTI, which is important to me.”
Luke Neurauter, the director of VTTI’s Division of Vehicle, Driver, & System Safety, has this to say: “Christine has been a tremendous asset to VTTI over the years, a true example of someone who is always willing to go above and beyond to ensure that success is achieved. Her development and guidance of the Volunteer Coordination Group has transformed how VTTI identifies and engages with volunteers, a critical aspect of our daily research activities. Repeatedly, Christine is tasked with thinking outside of the box and continues to come up with creative ways to identify eligible participants as demographic requirements become more complex and challenging. Personally, I am extremely grateful for all of Christine’s assistance over the years, and that of her team, and I look forward to future shared successes.”