It is an honor to serve as UNC-Chapel Hill’s new vice chancellor for research, and I look forward to what this next chapter will bring for research at Carolina. Together, I know we will sustain and grow our research trajectory and take our research enterprise to the next level.
I began my career at Carolina as a postdoctoral fellow in 1998 with expectations of engaging in rigorous research. Once here, I immediately experienced a level of collaboration that far surpassed anything I could have imagined. My work was infused and enriched by a diverse set of disciplines, methods, and approaches. These exciting synergies, along with the ingenuity made possible through collaborations with cross-campus partners, made Carolina a place I did not want to leave. I was able to conduct research here that was truly impactful — which I very much attribute to Carolina’s values of collaboration and innovation.
Now as vice chancellor for research, I want to make sure that we sustain and deepen our culture of collaboration. I also want to ensure that every researcher has a clear path to take their work beyond the University, to make tangible impacts on communities, the state, the nation, and the world. As researchers at a leading global public research university, it is our responsibility to ensure that our work has public benefit. Together, we can harness the full power of our innovative spirit to advance discovery, creativity, knowledge, and products for the public good.
Research is key to solving the world’s greatest challenges. To this end, it is important to leverage talent across Carolina to generate truly transformative science that can solve the pressing problems of today and tomorrow. Our efforts will focus on three key principles: innovate, transform, and renew. We will drive and accelerate our efforts to innovate in lockstep with research to expand our portfolio of pro-innovation research; transform our research ecosystem to be nimbler, with greater strategic alignment across campus; and to renew our key strategic partnerships in the state and beyond to fulfill the mission of the University with tangible return on investments.
While serving as interim vice chancellor for research, I led a strategic research roadmap process designed to create a new path forward for Carolina’s research enterprise. As part of the plan, we surveyed campus stakeholders to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to our research enterprise. We also queried campus on key state and global challenges that Carolina is well-positioned to solve, as well as the top priorities that we should focus on in the next three years to enhance our position as a leading research institution.
From that process, we identified five key areas: (1) building and improving state-of-the-art research assets to enable success; (2) supporting and growing a talented workforce; (3) fostering an environment that facilitates efficient research processes; (4) growing our research by identifying and investing in strategic opportunities, leveraging existing research strengths, and fostering collaboration to discover new knowledge and address strategic challenges; and (5) increasing the impact of Carolina’s research and communicating its value to strategic audiences.
We are now working to incorporate fundamental competencies and strategic research areas necessary to take our research enterprise to the next level. We will be working with key campus stakeholders and partners on an implementation plan and look forward to sharing the full results of our efforts with the research community in the coming months.
As we surveyed campus, it was clear that our community views its collaborative research environment as one of Carolina’s strongest assets. We are truly unique in the depth of our cross-campus collaborations and in the novel research, scholarly, and creative work born from those collaborations. I am eager to leverage these strengths and bring them to even greater heights by supporting more team science that works across the full translational spectrum — from discovery at the bench or in the field, to models, to clinics, to communities, and across populations — to solve the world’s greatest challenges.
There are additional opportunities to be empowered by forging new collaborations. We have an existing competitive advantage in life sciences and in behavioral and social sciences, and we have growing potential in other areas like applied sciences and engineering, data science, and humanities and the arts. New collaborations that bring our campus engineering and applied sciences talents to other research disciplines and domains have the potential to bring significant gains.
Furthermore, opportunities for growth abound in our backyard. We are at an unprecedented moment in time when technological and scientific advances create new areas of scientific inquiry while major expansion of regional industries directly draws on our research strengths, talents, and workforce. We will continue fostering partnerships across institutions, industries, and communities. We will work with state legislators to attract new industries to North Carolina and to close the innovation gap between research and its products. Carolina has much more to contribute to ensure our leadership in the next phase of our state’s economic growth.
I am eager to work collaboratively with Carolina leaders to create an integrated approach to research and innovation on our campus. I look forward to working with newly appointed Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Dedric Carter and Vice Chancellor for Development Michael Andreasen on ways that we can collaborate on research development to propel Carolina’s future.
Research truly touches all corners of our campus, and I look forward to continuing to work together to shape Carolina’s research future.