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Message from the Vice Chancellor for Research

UT Vice Chancellor for Research Deborah CrawfordI have been at the university for just over two weeks now and am so grateful for the many messages of welcome I have received from the campus community. Thank you for your warmth and generosity; I am delighted to become one of the newest members of the Volunteer family.

I am extremely grateful to Matthew Mench for leading the UT discovery enterprise for the past eight months, and for guiding our community’s response to the ongoing pandemic. Matthew’s advice and guidance helped ensure that my transition into the university was as smooth as I dared hope for. Thank you, Matthew.

I am also thankful for my new colleagues in the Office of Research and Engagement, who continue to support you, members of our fabulous faculty community, as you seek to realize your scholarly ambitions. Among the many support activities this spring and summer, ORE’s Research Development team hosted 75 researchers in April at a virtual SPARKS event to identify ways in which our community might come together to engage in research, scholarship, and creative work focused on understanding and mitigating the damaging impact of COVID-19.

Since mid-March, you and your colleagues have had to make many changes to the way you, your students, postdocs, and collaborators engage in research, scholarship, and creative work. Many of you have either worked with your teams to support productive work from home or made adjustments to your on-campus or off-site research practices to ensure continuity of your programs – all while protecting the health and wellbeing of your teams and human subjects.

Despite the growing impact of a pernicious virus, over the last four months of FY 20 our faculty researchers submitted 861 proposals requesting $418 million and received 259 new awards totaling $97 million. Of those, 99 proposals and 14 new awards were directly related to COVID-19 research and public service, accounting for $24 million in proposal requests, and $2 million in awards to date. These are just the activities that we track through Cayuse, our grants management system. I am equally certain that faculty who do not typically submit grants through Cayuse have continued their high level of research activity.

Through it all, you have demonstrated steadfast dedication to your discovery goals and great ingenuity and resilience in maintaining your scholarly productivity, all while transitioning to completely online instruction for the spring semester and preparing for hybrid instructional delivery that will begin in the coming days. Your achievements are both remarkable and inspirational.

A faculty member works in their office during a setup photoshoot while wearing a mask and social distancing at Strong Hall. July 10, 2020.

A faculty member works in their office while wearing a mask and social distancing at Strong Hall. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee

As we look forward to the fall semester, we will remain in a reduced research activity level. Research, scholarship, and creative work that can be done equally well from home should continue to be done there. Work that needs to be done on campus or in off-site locations must be organized in ways that ensure that social distancing is practiced effectively, face coverings are worn in relevant settings, and public health guidance is followed. Please continue to work with your department heads and associate deans for research to ensure your work is done in ways that protect the health and wellbeing of all involved.

We have showcased several examples of your research and continued activities on our website. I hope you have a chance to read and help celebrate your colleagues’ successes.

I look forward to getting to know and work with all of you as we continue to grow and diversify UT’s discovery enterprise and promote our reputation as a world-class research university.  It truly is an honor and a privilege to join the Volunteer family.

Go Vols!

Deborah Crawford, PhD

Vice Chancellor for Research