LSU Names Two Associate Vice Presidents to join the Office of Research & Economic Development
November 21, 2023
Stephania Cormier and John Flake will work to advance the five research priorities of LSU’s Scholarship First Agenda: agriculture, biomedicine, coast, defense and energy.
“What makes this announcement so exciting is the research caliber of the two people joining our team, their demonstrated leadership across the disciplines and how they each connect different aspects of the Scholarship First Agenda,” said Robert Twilley, LSU vice president of research and economic development. “Steph Cormier and John Flake both bring tremendous experience developing and promoting big research ideas, and that’s what we need to meet our research aspirations at LSU.”
Stephania Cormier, Herbert Weiner Endowed Chair in the Department of Biological Sciences in the LSU College of Science, professor of respiratory immunology at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center and honorary professor of child health at the University of Queensland in Australia, joins the LSU Office of Research & Economic Development as Associate Vice President of Health and Human Security.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Cormier received her honor’s baccalaureate from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and her PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from LSU Health New Orleans. Her research focus is on environmental causes for the dramatic rise in inflammatory respiratory diseases, including asthma. She is well-known for her work with infants and children to understand how they respond differently to pollution, allergens and respiratory viruses compared to adults. Cormier serves as chair for the Pacific Basin Consortium, which coordinates cooperative research across the globe to solve the most pressing environmental and health issues of our time. She is also president of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine, a non-profit society founded in 1903 to promote biomedical research by facilitating exchange of scientific information across disciplines.
Over the past 12 years, Cormier has brought more than $26 million in federal research funding to LSU and Louisiana.
At LSU, she leads the Superfund Research Program, funded through the National Institutes of Health, to lessen the environmental health effects of hazardous waste exposure on communities in Louisiana and across the globe. She rejoined LSU in 2018 after serving as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Global Partnerships at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and previously held the position as Associate Vice President in the LSU Office of Research & Economic Development between 2019 and 2022, during Samuel Bentley’s time as Vice President.
“This time, my focus will be different,” Cormier said. “Together with Vice President Robert Twilley, I will take a systems approach to growing transdisciplinary research. My main role will be to support our centers and institutes here at LSU and grow research collaborations across the LSU system, Louisiana and the globe.”
She brings nine years of experience as Superfund director to the task.
“Collaboration is key to tackling intricate challenges,” Cormier said. “What I have learned from managing the Superfund is that it’s essential to recognize that each scientific discipline has a contribution and distinct communication style.”
“Over the course of my career, I have learned to optimize team dynamics and identified challenges in running and managing interdisciplinary teams and centers,” Cormier continued. “I’ve gathered a unique skill set to overcome these hurdles—problems I’ll now be helping to solve on a larger scale.”
John Flake, Jesse Coates Professor and Jay Affolter Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering in the LSU College of Engineering and former department chair, joins the LSU Office of Research & Economic Development as Associate Vice President of Natural and Built Environments.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Flake received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Louisiana Tech University and his PhD from Georgia Institute of Technology. His research focus is on energy storage, electrochemical processes and materials, including electrocatalysts for CO2 reduction, which is a key technology for the “use” component of carbon capture, use and storage, or CCUS, as it can transform CO2 into valuable chemicals such as ethylene and ethanol. Before and during his time at LSU, Flake has worked with industry, including for IBM and Motorola, where he developed processes to make computer chips for laptops and cell phones used all around the world.
“It was a thrill to see people buy something that I helped to make, how my patents contributed to something new,” Flake said.
With 12 patents, Flake has served as principal investigator or co-PI on over $24 million in total funding, including from the National Science Foundation, Intel, the Semiconductor Research Corporation, the Economic Development Administration and the Department of Energy.
“I’m practical in the way I like to look at problems,” Flake said. “But the scope of this appointment is more visionary. I appreciate that our Vice President Robert Twilley gets the connection between nature and engineering. Food, water, energy and products, such as clothing, packaging, detergents and chemicals, are all connected. In Louisiana, the combination of the Mississippi River—nature—and our built infrastructure provides enormous advantages compared to states like Texas and California, and while LSU recently garnered over 400 million in research expenditures, we have the capacity to do much more.”
Flake will work to advance the food-water-energy nexus within the Scholarship First Agenda.
“My goal is to bring people together that normally wouldn’t collaborate. To grow research, you have to see the connections and get people to do things outside their comfort zone,” Flake said. “We’ve had a lot of success of late, and there is a compelling case to invest in LSU. We have outstanding faculty, staff and students who can lead the way in sustainable manufacturing, sustainable environments and sustainable communities.”