Rice names new vice provost

Rice University Professor Vicki Colvin, a leading expert on nanotechnology and director of the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN), has been named Rice’s vice provost for research, effective July 1.

She succeeds Jim Coleman, who left Rice to become dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Professor Colvin is a well-respected scientist, locally and nationally, and most recently she has served as director of our largest National Science Foundation (NSF) center -- CBEN,” Provost George McLendon said. He noted that her national leadership experience will be an asset as she works with faculty colleagues to take Rice's research portfolio to the next level.

Colvin is Rice's Kenneth S. Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor of Chemistry and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. She is also faculty director of Rice’s Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology — a position she will transition out of to serve as the university’s senior research officer.

To help strengthen Rice’s research infrastructure and facilitate the faculty's ability to obtain funding and conduct research, Colvin will advise McLendon and take the lead on research issues, including coordination of multidisciplinary and interinstitutional collaborations with other members of the Texas Medical Center. She will identify new areas for research and help develop relations between the university and federal, industry and other funding agencies.

“Federal support for science and engineering research will be at best flat for the foreseeable future,” Colvin said. “But Rice’s small size and interdisciplinary culture make us well-positioned to compete for the increasing flow of nontraditional research support.”

Colvin will also oversee Rice's Office of Sponsored Research, Office of Technology Transfer, the Animal Resource Facility, as well as Rice’s research institutes. “I am fortunate to have inherited an excellent staff who I am confident can continue to provide Rice faculty with an efficient research infrastructure,” she said.

Colvin joined Rice in 1996 and became director of CBEN five years later. CBEN was the first academic research center dedicated to studying the interaction of nanomaterials with living organisms and ecosystems. Under Colvin's leadership, the center spearheaded international efforts that created consensus among industrial, regulatory, academic and nongovernmental leaders on the research agendas for safe nanotechnology. In this role, she testified before Congress twice and continues to work with the National Academy of Sciences to inform science-based regulatory policy. CBEN’s decade of funding winds down this fall, and Colvin will continue in her research in this area with ongoing funding from NSF and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Colvin’s research group has conducted groundbreaking toxicological studies on fullerenes and other nanoparticles for water purification and targeted cell death. Her use of nanorust to remove arsenic from drinking water was named one of the Top Five Nanotech Breakthroughs of 2006 by Forbes magazine and one of “Six Ideas That Will Change the World” by Esquire, which named Colvin to its “Best & Brightest 2007” list.

Colvin is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. She has received Phi Beta Kappa’s Teaching Prize and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and in 2002 Discover Magazine named her one of its “Top 20 Scientists to Watch.”

She has a B.S. in chemistry and physics from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley.

 

 

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