Todd DeVore, Ph.D., knows the proof of good work is in the details. DeVore, an instructor who manages the undergraduate physics labs, also knows details can be overlooked, misunderstood or ignored.
So DeVore relies on Mark Case, a financial assistant who dots every I and crosses every T when helping him order unique or one-of-a-kind items from specialty vendors.
“These are the kind of details Mark helps me with all of the time,” DeVore says. “If something needs to be done, signed or arranged by a certain time, he reminds the faculty. It’s never the other way around.
“It really helps to have someone good at details with so many of us wearing different hats all day.”
Case’s positive attitude, willingness to help others and strong work ethic all are reasons he has been named Employee of the Month for August.
Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., director of the UAB Center for Nanoscale Materials and Biointegration, says Case is diligent and has offered exceptional support to faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral associates and staff for many tasks.
“Mark always has been friendly, courteous and not just willing but enthusiastic about carrying out whatever has been requested of him,” Vohra says. “Mark has contributed in many ways to the success of research and teaching mission of the Department of Physics.”
Case is flattered by the comments of his co-workers, but he says he’s just trying to do his job the best he can each day — regardless of the challenges that come his way.
“I try to make things as painless as possible for our faculty, especially with all of the paperwork,” Case says. “That’s not really something they should be concerned with.
“Some of the professors think I work hard, and it’s a great compliment,” Case adds. “But these folks really live their jobs. It’s not uncommon to get e-mails from them at 1 a.m. These scientists have a relentless attitude toward their work. They’re totally focused on physics and their responsibilities. I just do my small part to help them out.”
Case’s role in the department is anything but small, co-workers say.
Amy Bain, business officer of the department, says his knowledge about the procurement procedures in the university has been essential to the cutting-edge research department.
Case often has to fill out sole-source justification forms for faculty when they want to purchase a piece of equipment that has unique capabilities essential to research work. If the department can justify the purchase of the equipment — priced at more than $7,500 — it enables them to not have to go through a bid process and face delays.
Case worked in general accounting when he first came to UAB in 2000. He was transferred to purchasing three years later and learned the intricacies of the purchasing processes.
“What I learned there I brought here to physics in 2006,” he says. “Now, I’m basically submitting the types of things I used to approve when I was over there.”
While Case does an excellent job of performing his duties, it’s the way he does his job that endears him to his co-workers.
Mary Ellen Zvanut, Ph.D., says she appreciates that Case is willing to help whenever she needs it.
“I can’t remember a time when Mark wasn’t willing to stop, talk about my problem, look up items related to the problem and eventually solve the problem,” Zvanut says. “And he does these things with a smile, not a growl, and he does it with tremendous efficiency. I’m not really sure how he gets all of his work done.”
Tom Nordlund, Ph.D., says there is rarely a day when he does not see Case doing something beyond his normal duty.
“I recently saw him chasing down a key for a room to let students from a psychology class into another room because their classroom was getting repaired,” Nordlund says. “He was doing this at 5 p.m., and it wasn’t his responsibility to find an alternate classroom for students in another department but he was doing so.”
Case says he’s fortunate to work in a dynamic department with motivated faculty and staff. In fact, Case says he would have a hard time doing his job if it wasn’t for his immediate co-workers.
“There are four of us that support the 20-plus professors in the department,” Case says. “Amy Bain, Jerrie McCurrie and Amanda Dickinson and I have worked together for a while, and we all try to back each other up. The workload gets bigger and bigger, but we’ve worked well together for so long that we have a good system. We work to get things done.”