Dennis Liotta, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, has been nominated as the vice president for research for a three-year term beginning June 1. The trustees approved the appointment during their April 18 meeting.
A faculty member at Emory for 20 years, Liotta has consistently displayed strengths in both teaching and research. The 1987 recipient of the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award for the Natural Sciences, Liotta also has served on almost every major campus committee as well as numerous search committees. His list of research support is impressive, and he has held a number of positions with the National Institutes of Health, the American Chemical Society and the American Cancer Society. He has been the recipient of a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher Scholar fellowship, an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist fellowship and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation fellowship.
The position of vice president for research is a new one; when former Dean of the Graduate School and Vice President for Research George Jones stepped down in the spring of 1995, President Chace decided to re-think the combination of the two positions. Chace said that he believed the person who filled the position as vice president for research would "help us create a fuller and richer picture of sponsored research at Emory."
Research is a complex area crossing the boundaries of schools and divisions, and has experienced drastic increases. From 1987-1995, sponsored research increased 144 percent, from $54 million to $132 million.
Due to the fact that such a large proportion of sponsored research is in the medical arena, Liotta will report jointly to Provost Billy Frye and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Michael M.E. Johns. Johns, who will take office in July, said, "Dr. Liotta will do a great job of building research programs throughout the University and fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration. He has the enthusiasm, vision, energy and well-thought out optimism to provide the leadership needed for our future. His own excellence as a researcher in the biomedical arena, and his experience in technology transfer, mesh exactly with the Woodruff Health Sciences Center's agenda to become one of the best research institutions in the nation."
The director of the Office of Sponsored Programs, the director of the Office of Licensing and Patents and the University Research Committee will report directly to Liotta; he also will work with the associate vice president for Government Relations and the Institutional Review Committees, which will continue in their current reporting relationships.
"It will be his responsibility," said Frye in a letter that went out to all faculty last week, "to work with the faculty and administration to help us create at Emory an environment as supportive of research and scholarship as possible, consistent with our larger mission of teaching, research and service." Frye was careful to note that Liotta's charge is to support and encourage all faculty scholarship, not just that dependent upon external funding.
Liotta outlined four areas he envisions focusing on: "One is simply to be a vigorous advocate for the faculty. I think it's going to be important to hear the collective wisdom of the faculty and then distill it into some sort of coherent plan for research at the University." Second, he said that "a particularly important task for this office will be to facilitate multidisciplinary initiatives within the University. Currently, there is no person or entity that oversees research that crosses units." Working with the faculty, the licensing office, the Office of Sponsored Programs and the Institutional Advancement division to develop new sources of funding is the third area he listed. The fourth will be to establish good working relationships with the business community.
Both Frye and Dean of the College David Bright commented that Liotta's experience at Emory has uniquely prepared him to hold this office. "He is as well positioned as anybody to understand what is needed in the research efforts of the University, and the differences that planned growth and pursuit of support from external sources can make in a department, a school, and the University as a whole," said Bright. Frye emphasized Liotta's experience as a leader on and off campus and his involvement in "the arenas of sponsored research and corporate relationships, which are so vital to the future of research at Emory."
"Because I'm maintaining my own research program," Liotta explained, "I understand what researchers do--I'm going through the same things. I'm going to do anything I can to facilitate research initiatives here in the University."
-- Nancy M. Spitler