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Multiple images of researchers working in the field. The first image shows two student researchers, looking at a laptop by a stream in their high boots and weighters. The second image is a close up shot of a student researcher looking at creatures in glass containers. The third image shows two professors, wearing safety glasses, about to pour liquid nitrogen. The fourth image shows a researcher in the lab. The fifth image shows a group of researchers looking at foliage in plastic bags. The sixth image shows two researchers taking images for the library archive, one is standing on a stool while the other holds books open.

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research oversees, develops and supports UNC’s $1.2 billion research enterprise. It sets strategic priorities for research, manages proposals and awards, provides research infrastructure, identifies funding opportunities, develops research teams and partnerships, and oversees regulatory compliance, science and security, and ethics.

Portrait of Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen

Penny Gordon-Larsen, Vice Chancellor for Research

William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor, Department of Nutrition, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and School of Medicine


Penny Gordon-Larsen is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor in the nutrition department, which is jointly housed in the UNC School of Medicine and the UNC School of Global Public Health. She has been a Carolina faculty member since 2002.

In 2022 she was named interim vice chancellor for research and in 2023 she became the University’s permanent vice chancellor. Prior to serving as the vice chancellor for research, she served as associate dean for research at Gillings, where she led research strategy for the nation’s top public school of public health.

As vice chancellor for research, Gordon-Larsen develops, sets strategic direction, and provides support for UNC’s $1.12 billion research enterprise. She is responsible for research infrastructure, operations, and regulatory compliance, research development, research translation, and research communications, and strategic research partnerships. In addition, she oversees 13 pan-campus, inter-disciplinary research centers and institutes. She works across campus with the University’s research deans, center/ and institute directors, and key institutional leaders to strategically advance Carolina’s research enterprise.

Gordon-Larsen’s research focuses on the linkages between biology, behavior, and environment to inform efforts to prevent, manage, and treat obesity and associated cardiometabolic diseases. She has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator research totaling over $23.6 million and has served as a co-investigator on an additional $49.1M interdisciplinary research team projects with collaborators. Her NIH-funded research portfolio ranges from molecular and genetic to environmental and societal-level factors that influence health and obesity and its cardiometabolic consequences. She also leads the “Heterogeneity in Obesity Creativity Hub: Transdisciplinary Approaches for Precision Research and Treatment,” a large, collaborative project with 27 faculty from 16 departments, six schools, and five centers and institutes. The project focuses on understanding why two people who consume the same diets and exercise can have vastly different susceptibility to weight gain, with the aim of developing treatment approaches that go far beyond the “one-size-fits-all” approach that is so common.

Gordon-Larsen received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and anthropology from Tulane University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in Human Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She has authored more than 270 scientific papers in leading peer-review journals. Her work has been cited over 102,000 times with an h-index of 86. She served as president of The Obesity Society in 2015 and a member of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Advisory Council from 2020 to 2023. She also served on the 2020–2030 Strategic Plan for NIH Nutrition Research Thought Leaders Panel, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Strategic Plan Working Group, and the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Integration Working Group.

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312 South Building
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-4000

Ph: 919-962-1319

Bridget Riordan is the Executive Assistant for the Vice Chancellor. Ms. Riordan is responsible for the Vice Chancellor’s calendar and works closely to help prepare and review presentations, reports and travel coordination.

Yana Biblin serves as director of the VCR Research Administration Service Center that helps faculty and principal investigators focus on their research efforts by providing customized administrative and management support for research proposals, grants, awards and contracts.

Carolina Square, 123 W. Franklin St.
Suite 600B, Building C
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Leslie Heal serves as director of the Finance Operations and Analytics, and Major Organizational Unit (MOU) and is the finance lead for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. She is responsible for developing and implementing financial strategies as well as overseeing the day-to-day financial operations of the organization. Leslie’s expertise in leveraging technology for forecasting and reporting has been a key asset to the Vice Chancellor for Research. She has implemented tools to enhance the organization’s forecasting capabilities, improve data accuracy and visualization, and streamline financial reporting processes. Prior to her administrative position, Leslie utilized her doctoral degree in music from Indiana University teaching courses at the University level.

312 South Building
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