Pitt starts search for first senior vice chancellor for research

University officials met in Posvar Hall to discuss the upcoming vice chancellor of research position. Lauren Rosenblatt | News Editor

The Office of the Chancellor is gaining one extra body this spring, and the administration is looking for faculty and student input to decide who will fill a newly created position.

Pitt has held four town hall meetings this week to lead the search for the first senior vice chancellor for research. The position will include oversight and organization of research projects at Pitt, regardless of discipline. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Kenneth P. Dietrich School Arts and Sciences Dean John Cooper and School of Medicine Dean Arthur Levine attended each meeting to answer questions about the new position and gather input about what researchers would like to see in the candidates.

Gallagher said that, throughout the week, a few themes have emerged. At multiple meetings, attendees have expressed interest in a candidate with a strong research background who can adeptly work in a bureaucracy and knows how to collaborate efficiently.

“The very nature of this position is one of enabling and working across the University,” Gallagher said. “It’s not about empire building.”

Gallagher has focused heavily on research since he became chancellor in 2014. In May, Pitt announced the Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds –– $1 million in gap-funding money to help Pitt faculty and students put their research products on the market. Gallagher has also been advocating for commercializing research since February 2015, when he sent a letter about the importance of it to the Pitt community.

Pitt plans to have the position filled and up and running by this spring semester, according to Cooper. Until then Cooper said the administration will consolidate the comments they have heard over the meetings and put together a job description.

From there, members of the search committee — who Gallagher will announce in the next week — will start advertising and making calls to find candidates for the position. Pitt will also hire Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, a search firm, to help fill the position. Though the committee has not set a salary for the position yet, other senior vice chancellors at Pitt make more than $300,000 annually.

By including people from multiple departments in the committee, Gallagher said he is hoping to cover the breadth of research activity at Pitt.

To come up with a baseline set of benchmarks for this position, Pitt looked at the way 62 top research universities, including North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and University of California, Berkeley, have handled the position. Still, Gallagher said Pitt is being mindful in tailoring the position to what individual researchers at Pitt need, like help navigating bureaucratic processes to secure funding.

“We have our own strengths and weaknesses, our own culture. It’s important for this person to be successful that they don’t just fit the average profile from 62 universities, they fit our profile,” Gallagher said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, faculty and graduate students asked how the position would affect other departments at the University and if the new position meant other changes would be made to the research program.

Gallagher said the decision to bring on additional personnel would be up to the new senior vice chancellor of research. He also said they would evaluate research services at Pitt and consider expanding or decreasing certain services based on their efficiency.

A Pitt bioengineering professor asked Gallagher and the deans if the search will be within Pitt, regional or on an international level.

“It’s certainly going to be national,” Cooper said. “And national these days tends to include international. We recruit people from all over the world for all sorts of jobs.”

Jake Mirra, a Ph.D. candidate studying mathematics, came to the meeting to learn about the process of administration at universities. At the meeting, he said he wanted someone in the position who was good at government regulations and could “rope in” funding for more research at Pitt.

“I think universities are such an important thing in our civilization,” Mirra said. “They just do massive good for humanity. I think a world with bigger and better universities is better.”

Though the town hall meetings are over, Gallagher said even after someone is hired, the drive to improve Pitt’s research program won’t come to an end anytime soon.

“The job doesn’t stop once we find the right person,” Gallagher said. “It just begins.”

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