03/15/2013 01:01 PM
BATON ROUGE – On March 14, Kalliat T. Valsaraj, associate vice chancellor in the LSU Office of Research and Economic Development and Charles & Hilda Roddey Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, gave a presentation titled “Research and Economic Development: A Conversation with Faculty, Staff and Students,” as part of the interview process for the position of vice chancellor in the Office of Research and Economic Development, or ORED. He is the first of five candidates to interview for the role.
In his presentation, Valsaraj focused on an assessment of the national research scene, the present status of research at LSU, his future vision for LSU research and his strategic plan for achieving that vision. He suggested efforts to enhance research initiatives in focal areas with local, national and international partners, and efforts to increase research communications at LSU.
“In my own mind, we should be moving into the top 25 percent of our flagship peer institutions, and we should be working toward a membership in the elite American Association of Universities,” Valsaraj said. “More importantly, we need to make our research more ‘relevant’ to the state and nation’s needs. To do that, we need to build Centers of Excellence and bring in federally funded research centers.”
Valsaraj identified challenges including shrinking R&D investment and reduced university funding in the U.S. To overcome such challenges, Valsaraj encourages partnerships with private institutions to enhance research at LSU.
“To preserve the U.S. innovation advantage, the same concept comes back again and again, that of promoting mutual partnership among industry, federal government, universities and other private entities,” Valsaraj said. “LSU is uniquely placed in opportunities for public-private partnerships. We have a large industrial base, and we have a state friendly to industries.”
Valsaraj also suggested increasing LSU’s research portfolio in areas of National Defense and security, National Institute of Health, or NIH, and bio-related research, environmental and coastal research, “Big Data” research including high performance computing and genomics, and collaborative research with private institutions.
“I want to work quite a bit on expanding LSU Innovation Park and international programs,” Vasaraj said. “Our flagship document also says we have to be partnered with private industry. We need to engage [business industry leaders] in conversation.”
Valsaraj identified key areas of current research strength at LSU as well as key areas of interest for the future, including materials science and engineering research, conventional and renewable energy research, coastal sustainability initiatives, public health research and research communication initiatives.
“We have to be strategically thinking along these lines,” Valsaraj said. “We also have to engage faculty. We recently started a science café, which has been very successful in bringing out both the research and the global community. This is just one of the ways that we are sharing LSU’s role in research and development with the result of the community.”
Valsaraj arrived at LSU in 1986. He has a background in biology and chemistry, with an M.S. degree in Chemistry from Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Vanderbilt University. Valsaraj is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, and has been recognized as a Distinguished Research Master at LSU. During his time at LSU, Valsaraj has played a large role in improving industrial relations in the Cain Department of Chemical Engineering. He has procured more than 19.5 million dollars in research support, and is currently funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, or GoMRI, for his research on oil dispersants.
“In effect, I’ve had 27 years of commitment to LSU, and I’m not going anywhere,” Vasaraj said.
LSU officials are in the process of conducting a search for the position of vice chancellor for research and economic development. Candidates will participate in a series of interviews with university staff and students, and will also participate in a campus-wide forum to present their thoughts on the future of research and economic development at LSU. The presentations will be followed by open question-and-answer sessions led by the candidates.
The remaining candidates are Jerry Miller, assistant director for Ocean Sciences at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy; Kevin Smith, distinguished professor of Chemistry at LSU; David Conover, director for Division of Ocean Sciences at the National Science Foundation; and Chitra Rajan, associate vice president for research at Iowa State University.
The Vice Chancellor for Research & Economic Development serves as the Chief Research Officer for the University, reporting to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. This individual will take a leadership role in national and international activities regarding research policy and will guide LSU in defining, prioritizing, and energizing emerging research opportunities. The target start date for this position is July 1, 2013.
All faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend the candidate presentations.
For more information regarding the search, including position description, search committee members and candidates’ vitae, please visit http://www.lsu.edu/faculty_staff/vcsearch/.
For more information about the candidates, please visit http://www.lsu.edu/faculty_staff/vcsearch/candidates.shtml.
Posted on Friday, March 15, 2013