Mary Potter has been named the director of the Privacy and Research Data Protection Program.

With more than 15 years of expertise in data protection and privacy, Potter will ensure that Virginia Tech’s researchers have access to the resources they need to keep data secure and compliant with university, state, and federal regulations. She will also help IT professionals with finding the resources they need to keep data secure.

“Mary will ensure that Virginia Tech is in compliance with institutional, state and local, and federal privacy regulations,” said Lisa M. Lee, associate vice president in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation. “She will coordinate with campus stakeholders to develop and manage a process to support Virginia Tech investigators in addressing and meeting the data protection requirements of research activities. She will provide subject matter expertise and consultation to the research community and the IRB about various privacy requirements and maintain policies that are consistent with privacy-related best practices and evolving external requirements.” 

Data protection prevents corruption, compromise, or loss of valuable research data. But there is also the key factor of protecting human participants through data privacy, another aspect of Potter’s program. “When we’re working with human participants, we need to protect their information and make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep their data secure, to make sure we’re keeping them informed of how their data will be used,” said Potter. She will liaise with Virginia Tech’s IRB to ensure that participants are protected.

“99.9 percent of the time researchers want to do the right thing, but they need to know what the right thing is and it can’t be so complicated that they can’t do their job,” said Potter. “My role will facilitate finding the right resource without wasting our researchers’ valuable time and funding.”

The regulatory environment is changing and universities must be agile in their responses to those changes. Potter will provide access to researchers in formulating data plans, security measures, privacy protection, and standard operating procedures to help researchers stay abreast of these changes.

“With the support provided through the new Division of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance, researchers can stay focused on their research,” Lee said.

Potter comes to Virginia Tech from Carilion Health Services, where she served as an information security and privacy officer, working with health care data. She has consulted with numerous organizations nationally to assist with setting up privacy and data protection programs.

If you need assistance with privacy and data protection, please contact Mary at

Written by Tiffany Trent