New dean: Biologist
Hopkins has hired a new associate dean to aggressively
pursue federal funding and to seek private research dollars for
the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.
Gary K. Ostrander, a biologist specializing in cancer research, officially began the newly created position on Sept. 23. As the school's first full-time associate dean for research, he plans to make a science of attracting federal money and endowments.
"Certainly, there is money out there but it's getting tighter and tighter and harder and harder to get, in terms of traditional federal funding," said the 39-year-old scientist. "I will be spending a fair amount of time in Washington, getting a feel for the various agencies and the direction in which they are going.
"Another thing I'll be looking at very hard and very carefully is funding opportunities through private foundations and potential funding opportunities with industrial partners."
Ostrander came to Hopkins from Oklahoma State University, where he was associate dean of the Graduate College, an associate professor in the Department of Zoology and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
He also has background in marine biology and coordinates a research program in the Bahamas to monitor endangered coral reefs, which provide valuable habitats for fish and chemical compounds for medicines. Ostrander recently finished a book about the fishes of San Salvador, for which he did the underwater photography as well.
His diverse research interests and academic experience made him the ideal person for the job, said Carol Burke, associate dean for academic affairs, who was a member of the committee organized to screen and recommend candidates for the position.
"I think there are a lot of opportunities that he'll be able to help with," Burke said.
Hopkins could benefit by attracting research money for projects that combine the work of scientists from Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering and the Medical Institutions, she said.
"Funding agencies are recognizing that they get more bang for their dollar with interdisciplinary projects or collaborative projects," Ostrander said. "They are also beginning to realize that research problems are not neatly compartmentalized as they perhaps once used to be.
"The boundaries between biology, chemistry, physics and engineering, for example, are beginning to blur. Interdisciplinary approaches to basic research or fundamental problem solving are clearly on the cutting edge now."
Finding Ostrander was not easy.
"It was an incredibly difficult search," said Bruce Marsh, a professor of earth and planetary sciences who was chairman of the search committee.
The quest, which began one and a half years ago, first yielded 130 applicants, but not one was considered right for the job. So, the Hopkins committee conducted a second search. This time, about 50 applicants responded.
"We had some really interesting people, very impressive scientists," Marsh said, but only one truly met the requirements.
"We wanted someone who was very respectable as a scientist, who would have the respect of the faculty, who knows the trials and tribulations of doing research."
The job, however, also called for a keen sense of where and how to root out research money. Scientists continually have their noses to the grindstone; they rarely have time to look into creative avenues of research funding, Marsh said.
Ostrander said he will strive to seek out grants for scientists in areas where they wouldn't ordinarily look.
For example, a geophysicist who usually draws funding from the National Science Foundation might be eligible for money from the Environmental Protection Agency, or some other agency that does not traditionally fund such work.
Another important potential funding source is the private sector, which might provide critical endowments to keep laboratories running.
"It's one thing to get together $2 million to buy a piece of equipment, it's another thing to get together $100,000 a year to keep it running," Ostrander said. "If you endow those pieces of equipment, or if you endow facilities, then you know they are going to be there for a long period of time."
He also will pursue endowments for the humanities and social sciences.
Before the dean's position was created, biophysics professor Shin Lin had served as part-time associate dean for research and graduate studies. But he was juggling that job with full research and teaching loads, his graduate studies duties and responsibilities as chairman of the Biophysics Department. Dean Burke has taken over the graduate studies work, enabling Ostrander to focus solely on the research.
"He gave up his tenure to come here, and I think that says a lot about his confidence," Marsh said.
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