$250 million Duke Science and Technology initiative invests in new science faculty recruits

<p>The Wilkinson Building, Pratt School of Engineering's newest addition.</p>

The Wilkinson Building, Pratt School of Engineering's newest addition.

Duke Science and Technology is described as a “strategic recruitment” initiative with investments of over $250 million. But what does this exactly entail? 

DST, a faculty recruitment and retention effort, “will give the university resources to expand core strengths in Duke’s research, extending to nearly every corner of the University,” according to a November press release

The effort is focused on three main themes: materials science, computing and resilience of the body and brain. By hiring professors in these three focuses, Duke hopes to reshape the education of future leaders in science and technology to achieve breakthroughs in global challenges.  

“Science was the one area of Duke that was dramatically under-invested compared to other areas of Duke,” said David Kennedy, vice president of alumni engagement and development, in the press release. “And if we didn't do it soon, and we didn't do it strategically, it might have a huge negative impact on Duke. We're a top 10 university, but we were lagging behind our peers.” 

George Truskey, R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson distinguished professor of biomedical engineering, explained what this initiative means for students and Duke’s STEM programs. 

“By hiring in new areas of expertise, these faculty will probably want to teach courses in their area of interest at both the undergraduate and graduate level,” Truskey said. 

Truskey sees the addition of new senior postdocs and assistant professors as a driver for collaboration with current professors. Under the initiative, current faculty can nominate people they would like to bring to Duke, which could bring “some synergy and research collaboration.” Research teams can also apply, which gives them “opportunities to apply for proposals that maybe as an individual someone couldn't apply for.” 

The first round of recruiting has hired 11 senior faculty. With a goal of recruiting 75 to 100 new faculty in total, and each round recruiting about 15 more people, Truskey estimates that the current funding will allow for two to three more years of recruitment. 

The Duke Endowment has given Duke its largest award yet in supporting this initiative, recently completing the second phase of a $100 million grant.

Truskey noted that the initiative is also fundraising to contribute further to the investment. They hope to use this initial investment as a fundraising tool to obtain funds from other donors and expand the initiative.

In addition to two $50 million investments from the Duke Endowment, the $150 million donated to DST includes an anonymous donation dedicated to the Duke Discovery Fund and two gifts from Trustees. The program has also received a $5 million donation from the Charles LaFitte Foundation to create an internship training program for undergraduates and facilitate collaboration between the Pratt School of Engineering and Duke’s Office for Research and Innovation.

By developing these new areas of excellence, DST hopes to promote new collaborations and opportunities for students. 

“The more bright people around you, the more exciting the environment is, and the more you want to learn,” Truskey said. 


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