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LSU Vice Chancellor of Research & Economic Development focuses on strategic plan to enhance research activities

Good things are brewing at LSU's Office of Research and Economic Development, guided by the hand of its new leader, Vice Chancellor of Research & Economic Development Kalliat T. Valsaraj. He has big plans for enhanced research activities, industrial partnerships and research communication at LSU.

"ORED is here to facilitate research at LSU," Valsaraj said. "We are focusing on enhancing and developing the research in ORED's focal areas. One of our goals is multi-disciplinary, cross-campus research activities. But we also want to increase LSU's number of international partnerships and grow existing ones we have in Asia, South America and Europe."

ORED completed a strategic plan in 2012, guided largely by the efforts of then-Associate Vice Chancellor Valsaraj.

"We invested significant time and attention to a comprehensive and strategic look at research at LSU, focusing not just on where we are now, but where we'd like to be and how to get there," he said.

3D scannerVice Chancellor of Research & Economic Development Kalliat T. Valsaraj has big plans for research at LSU, starting with seven focal areas outlined in the Office of Research & Economic Development’s strategic plan.Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

The plan, available at www.lsu.edu/research, identifies seven focal research areas, including materials science and engineering, coastal sustainability and environment, conventional and renewable energy, high performance computing, biotechnology and biomedical research, as well as social science fields including communication and individual and community behavior.

"These are areas where we have existing research strengths," said Valsaraj, "but also areas of potential growth."

To encourage that growth, ORED is securing grant specialists and technology writers to focus on successfully pursuing large-scale grants in these areas in order to enhance LSU's current research portfolio.

"Obtaining large-scale, multi-institutional, center-oriented grants are really the only way to dramatically increase our research portfolio," said Valsaraj.

ORED's strategic plan also clearly aligns with economic development plans established by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Louisiana Economic Development. As a large-scale, top-tier research institution, the depth and breadth of work conducted at LSU naturally supports multi-faceted, in-depth research contributing to the betterment of Louisiana.

"One of the themes of our focal research areas is that everything is connected," Valsaraj said. "Research in materials science has significant impacts for energy innovation, and in order to develop and test new materials for energy and biomedical applications, you have to have high performance computing capabilities. These capabilities are helping researchers model complex coastal processes affecting our state, such as hurricane-induced flooding. We are looking at the whole spectrum."

ORED's strategic plan is also shifting LSU's intellectual property focus to develop more connections and partnerships with industry, promoting technology commercialization. Valsaraj's replacement in the position of associate vice chancellor of research and economic development, for example, will focus on facilitating expansion and commercialization of biotechnology and biomedical research at LSU.

"We want to make it even easier for industry to work with us," Valsaraj said. "We're looking for industry liaisons."

ORED's strategic plan supports enhancement of high impact scholarly research and creative activities on campus, facilitation of necessary infrastructure for these activities and economic and work force development in the state. Key industries targeted for economic development by the state include energy, advanced manufacturing, specialty health care, agribusiness, water management, clean-technology and digital media.

"When we talk about research, we are not only talking about science and engineering, but arts and humanities play a big role as well," Valsaraj said.

Communicating the importance of this work is also high on his list of priorities. Together with the Office of Communications & University Relations, ORED developed the Research Communications department, a joint effort to further promote the outstanding research being conducted at LSU. ORED also sponsors LSU's Science Café series, an effort to take LSU research outside the campus gates and to the public. The event takes place on the last Tuesday of each month at Chelsea's Cafe.

"We need to do a better job of telling our story. You can be the best researcher in the world, but if you can't explain your work, no one will know about it," Valsaraj said. "Research is by and large a public enterprise. We have to help share the message."

ORED's initiatives and goals will take time, Valsaraj said, and will require support on many levels.

"I'm committed to LSU for the long term," Valsaraj said. "I want to help the university. That's what I'm focused on. Our faculty need to know that they have our support. We're here to help."

For more information about Valsaraj and the Office of Research & Economic Development, visit www.lsu.edu/research.