New associate dean to expand engineering research
The University of Idaho College of Engineering hopes to expand their research efforts with their new hire, said Larry Stauffer, dean of the College of Engineering.
Jon Van Gerpen is the new associate dean of research for the College of Engineering and will assist the college in obtaining funding for research and grow the engineering field.
Stauffer said the college hasn’t hired new faculty in a while, but needs to expand their staff to help with research programs.
“It’s a constant issue for us to bring in new faculty and help them be successful,” Stauffer said.
Stauffer said Van Gerpen will help manage staff and faculty to put together proposals for increased funding for research. He will also help them do it better and more often, because even small mistakes in the proposal can cost the loss of funding.
“He’s a proven leader,” Stauffer said.
Van Gerpen said his goal is to try and get more people involved in research within the college and try to expand the research activity.
“That would involve, then, hopefully more graduate students and more funding for those programs,” Van Gerpen said.
Currently, each professor or group must find their own funding for research.
“What I will do as part of my job as associate dean is try to minimize the obstacles that faculty encounter in going after that money, provide them with information sources so they know when the different opportunities become available, provide them with the training and support so that they can get out proposals that will be very competitive,” Van Gerpen said.
He said it is all about expanding research through supporting this infrastructure.
“I work to try to provide the environment that makes it easier for the faculty who write the proposals,” he said.
Funding is mostly gathered from government agencies, some from industries and some from foundations. Stauffer said their plan is to have $150 million by 2020 in graduate research expenditures.
The College of Engineering does a lot of work with companies like Boeing, Micron, Hewlett Packard and Schweitzer. Van Gerpen will help facilitate arrangements with these and other companies. Other organizations Van Gerpen will work with include the National Science Foundation and the United Dairy Association, and he will also put together more industry programs to get more funding, Stauffer said.
“We compete nationally and internationally with our research, and it’s important to have leaders to help support that. It’s hard to do that with just one person, but a team of people makes it possible,” Stauffer said.
He said the college needs to spend so much effort to obtain and increase funding because there has been a decrease in state funding.
Van Gerpen said in addition to trying to increase industry and private support, he will work with the 80 faculty members to make their proposals and preparations more effective. This includes writing workshops and helping faculty make their budget preparations and research proposals.
He said much of what he does is gather information and track how proposals are written, how successful they are, what they’ve done to contribute to that success in order to keep doing those things and develop a knowledge base to enhance their success rate.
“In some ways we’re recreating the position and deciding between myself, the dean and the department chairs exactly what all this position should encompass,” Van Gerpen said. “What I hope will occur is that we will see a change in the atmosphere, (in which) people view the proposal writing process to be simpler … (and) the research enterprise as being an exciting career opportunity.”
Katy Sword can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org