Lawrence Carin, chair of electrical and computer engineering, has been selected as the next vice provost for research.
Carin will replace James Siedow, who is stepping down this year after 12 years in the position. The job's main features include facilitating funding for research—both from the government and from industry sources—as well as managing regulations and issues with compliance. Carin was selected for his breadth of experience and commitment to interdisciplinary research, colleagues noted.
“I want Duke to be a place where you can be extraordinarily successful in your research, and I don’t believe that there are very many fundamental barriers of success here, ” Carin said. “My job is to go find whatever obstacles exist and try to move them.”
The decision to appoint Carin was made by a committee of Duke faculty. One of the many things the committee looked for in a candidate was “a strong advocate for the University’s research mission in the context of the University’s strategic commitment to internationalization, interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society,” committee member Michael Therien, William R. Kenan, Jr. professor of Chemistry, wrote in an email Wednesday.
During Carin’s twenty years as a professor at Duke, he has brought in millions of dollars of research funding and founded a successful company—Signal Innovations Group in Research Triangle Park—Therien noted.
“It’s a great choice,” Siedow said. “[Carin is] widely regarded as a very thoughtful and intelligent person. He will bring some changes around, and these changes are probably good and probably needed.”
Carin said his experience as a researcher will help him make the research faculty more effective as an administrator. He noted that faculty do research in fields far beyond the natural sciences and engineering, including the humanities and social sciences—experience that Carin has garnered as a researcher himself.
“Over the last twenty years, I’ve done research across the entire campus,” said Carin. “I’ve published paper on analysis and music and even political science. I think I really understand Duke and Duke research.”
Carin also noted that interdisciplinary research has always been a strength of the University and will continue to be a focus for him.
“I find that a lot of opportunities for collaboration and joint efforts may be very exciting for faculty who haven’t been here for long and might not know about them,” Carin said. “I am hoping that it will be a real hallmark of what we do.”
Siedow said that one of the many important roles played by the vice provost for research is leading the Office of Research Support, overseeing the submission of grants from all agencies. The vice provost of research ensures that the rules and regulations of how to spend this funding are met, including common concerns of researchers in academia such as addressing conflicts of interest and examining the ethicality of human subjects testing. The position also requires that Siedow sit on the board of North Carolina Biotechnolgy Center, Research Triangle Institute International and many other research enterprises.
“In many ways, the vice provost is the Duke representative of research entities,” Siedow said.
Duke is currently a top-ranked research institution with more than a billion dollars of research funding, Carin said. The funding environment, however, is getting increasingly competitive—particularly in regard to decreasing federal investments and the unpredictable nature of federal budgeting. Regardless, Carin noted that Duke receives funding from research grants beyond that of many peer institutions.
“While we are doing well, we can always do better,” Carin said.