When Dr. John Gilligan became vice chancellor for research and graduate
studies, he knew he had his work cut out for him. The growing recession
was making the states budget crisis worse, and NC State research
gains seemed at risk. RESULTS asked Gilligan to comment after six months
in the vice chancellorship.
R: What are your major goals as vice chancellor?
Gilligan: First, I want to dramatically increase federal research funding to enable us to attack more complex problems and to support more graduate students. And second, I want to make it as easy as possible for faculty and students to do basic discovery without undue administrative burden.
R: How will you go about increasing federal funding?
Gilligan: We already see gradual increases each year. But in order to have a dramatic increase, we need to go after more of the big opportunities in our areas of strength. Nanotechnology is a good example. There are hundreds of millions of federal dollars available, and were so good in chemistry, physics, biomaterials, chemical engineering, textiles, and electronic materials, that nanotechnology is a natural for us. We need to initiate working groups in each our major multidisciplinary thrust areas to further increase interactions among faculty and develop ideas for new research centers that showcase our strengths in bigger ways.
R: How can you facilitate the discovery process?
Gilligan: A big potential hassle for our laboratory researchers is the increasingly restrictive federal regulatory climate we are facing as part of the fallout from the War on Terrorism. Congress is attaching more strings to funding, requiring more extensive reporting on whos using what in our labs, and restricting opportunities for graduate students who are not U.S. citizens. Our staff is taking a systems approach to reducing the regulatory compliance load on our researchers, including interpreting the regulations and communicating with faculty, developing software solutions and centralized reporting support, and making sure our international students are treated fairly. Thats just one example.
R: You've been a big supporter of graduate education. Why is supporting more graduate students so important?
Gilligan: A research university has a special mission to train the brightest people we have for leadership positions, whether its in technology, industry, politics, education, or any other field. Our graduate students are not only laboratory assistants. They are also innovators, collaborators, and teachers while they are here. Our success is measured in the number and quality of graduate students who fulfill their goals and advance their fields. This is the way our country builds and sustains its intellectual strength.
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