Skip to main content
Collage of photographs of Gaby de la Cruz, Bentley Midkiff, and Rossana Roberts
Gaby de la Cruz (top), Bentley Midkiff (right), and Rossana Roberts (bottom) were the recipients of the Spring 2024 Staff Recognition Awards

The UNC Core Facilities Staff Recognition Award program recognized three recipients for the 2023 spring award cycle. Each award recipient will receive $1,000 and a feature on the Office of Research Technologies website. The program review committee congratulates all winners and thanks those who nominated core employees for these awards during this award cycle. 

We are excited to present our category winners–keep an eye out for special features on each category winner to follow over the next month at:  The next Core Facility Staff Recognition Award will be open for nominations in November.  

Gabriela (Gaby) de la Cruz, director of the Pathology Services Core (PSC), was selected to receive the Performance Excellence Award. Taking over as core director in 2021 to manage the merger of two separate histopathology cores with separate staff, processes, and workflows was no easy feat, but Gaby’s nominators spoke highly of the way she led her new team through this transition while ensuring the staff she supervised received the training and support needed to be successful. Her mentorship skills were highlighted multiple times and evidenced by a poster award at a national conference won by one of her mentees. Additionally, Gaby’s nominators highlighted how forward-thinking she is to ensure the long-term stability and success of the core. Her identification, navigation and implementation of multiple new technologies and equipment needs, including AI histology software, new spatial biology technology, as well as routine upgrades and replacements has involved navigating and searching for external instrumentation grants and learning valuable grant writing skills—which are paying off, as demonstrated by the award of a North Carolina Biotechnology Grant this spring. Her ability to tackle these challenges was mentioned by several of her nominators, as is her determination that the PSC stays on the forefront of cutting-edge technology.  

Bentley Midkiff, also from the Pathology Services Core, is recognized as the winner of the Technical Achievement award. Bentley has spearheaded digital pathology at UNC with his work in the Pathology Services Core (and previously in the Translational Pathology Laboratory). Not only has Bentley learned and optimized both existing and incoming technologies, but he also has leveraged data analytics to improve rigor, reproducibility, and transparency in research utilizing the PSC’s services. He has developed image analysis techniques to perform quality control checks of both routine and special staining, catch inconsistencies or potential quality issues early, and can do so consistently and reproducibly across the large volume of slides moving through the Pathology Service Core every day. Bentley also spearheaded efforts to improve the use of digitization tools in the core to eliminate human transcription errors and reduce staff handling time. This initiative  

Finally, Rossana Roberts, from Abacus Evaluation, is recognized as the winner of the Customer Service award. Her nominator highlighted her ability to understand the customer and their priorities and to quickly and seamlessly pivot when those needs may change or shift mid-project. Additionally, Rossana effectively managed and led her team during a gap in leadership, ensuring the customers continued to receive the high-quality project management and data evaluation services they required. Finally, Rossana was commended for her in depth knowledge of the data her team works with—and her ability to quickly and accurately assess what changes may be necessary to the data structure as the customer needs change and evolve. This allows her to provide accurate timelines and meet both internal and external deadlines.  

There were many exceptional nominations to this fall’s award cycle, and we also want to acknowledge the other nominees who are all doing outstanding work in their respective core facilities:  

  • Mandy Bush (Respiratory TRACTS Core) 
  • Ashley Ezzell (Histology Research Core Facility) 
  • Ayrianna Hedgecock (UNC Flow Cytometry Core Facility) 
  • Justin Fousek (LCCC Bioinformatics Core) 
  • Michelle Altemara (Zebrafish Aquaculture Core) 
  • Aurora Cabrera (Metabolomics and Proteomics Core)