For Tripti Bhattacharya, the road to a career in earth sciences has taken a few twists and turns along the way. Bhattacharya, the Thonis Family Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences, first thought she would explore a career in environmental policy…
BioInspired Institute Brings Together Faculty with Related Research Interests from Across the University
Hiring of faculty is underway for the newly named BioInspired Syracuse: Institute for Material and Living Systems. BioInspired Syracuse (previously referred to as Bio-enabled Science and Technology) is one of the previously announced seven multidisciplinary research clusters that will bring together faculty scholars from multiple Syracuse University schools and colleges who have related research interests.
BioInspired Syracuse will support research into complex biological systems, developing and designing programmable smart materials to address global challenges in health, medicine and materials innovation. It involves faculty from such disciplines as life sciences, engineering, physics and chemistry. For example, researchers who have built models to understand the mechanics of tissue will work collaboratively with other scientists on developing new approaches to wound healing and cancer care.
Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Michele Wheatly and Vice President of Research John Liu recently announced the appointment of M. Lisa Manning, associate professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), as the founding director of BioInspired Syracuse and Dacheng Ren, the Stevenson Endowed Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), as associate director. Going forward, the director position will rotate every three years between the A&S faculty and ECS faculty. Manning and Ren will oversee the merger of the soft and living matter program and the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute into the BioInspired Institute over the course of the next two years.
“We are off to a very promising start,” says Manning. “BioInspired Syracuse already brings together nearly 30 esteemed faculty at the University who, together, have attracted about $46 million of sponsored research funds over the last five years to support their research. The new faculty hires—13 in all—will fill in some gaps, open up exciting possibilities for research across disciplines, and create new opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to pursue truly meaningful and relevant research.”
This week, faculty members across campus are nominating and electing an inaugural executive committee for the institute. Soon after that, Manning will announce faculty town hall meetings on campus to highlight opportunities for faculty members to become involved in the institute. “Right now, it’s word-of-mouth, and I’ve heard from individuals who have interest in working outside the walls of their own college to solve problems with researchers in other fields. This is an exciting time with countless opportunities for collaboration. We need to spread the word far and wide.”
“BioInspired Syracuse is a great example of interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary thinking in which the sum of the parts will create a distinctive and powerful whole new way of looking at the connections between biology, the physical sciences and engineering, between the cellular world and the material world,” says Liu. “As promised, this cluster focuses us on research that is relevant to our students who seek opportunities to help solve some of today’s global challenges.”
The Office of the Provost has committed $500,000 to fund initial operations and an additional $500,000 to facilitate the merger of Syracuse Biomaterials Institute operations into the BioInspired Institute through a “convergence fund” that will be administered by the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute director in close consultation with the new BioInspired Institute director.
“We are excited about tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges,” says Ren. “For example, our expertise in complex systems, soft matter and functional biomaterials puts us in a unique position to design and engineer advanced ‘smart’ materials more rapidly and at lower costs. Such work has promising applications in the detection and treatment of diseases and other challenging medical problems.”
The Cluster Hires Initiative is the part of the Academic Strategic Plan intended to significantly invest in faculty recruitment and retention in areas of distinction for the University. Vice Chancellor Wheatly says that cluster creation and cluster hires are an effective approach to strengthening research activity, enhancing faculty diversity and developing new opportunities for student research and learning. Syracuse University was recently reaffirmed in the top tier for research activity among all doctoral universities with an R1 distinction, an indicator of “very high research activity.” Syracuse is one of only 34 private doctoral universities classified as R1.
The other six clusters for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary activity and new hiring are: Aging, Behavioral Health and Neuroscience; Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, Autonomous Systems and Policy; Big Data and Data Analytics; Energy and Environment; Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Social Differences and Social Justice.
About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private, international research university with distinctive academics, diversely unique offerings and an undeniable spirit. Located in the geographic heart of New York state, with a global footprint and nearly 150 years of history, Syracuse University offers a quintessential college experience, as well as innovative online learning environments. The scope of Syracuse University is a testament to its strengths. At Syracuse University, we offer a choice of more than 200 majors and 100 minors offered through 13 schools and colleges and 18 online degree programs. We have more than 15,000 undergraduates and 7,500 graduate students, more than a quarter of a million alumni in 160 countries and a student population from all 50 U.S. states and 123 countries. For more information, visit syracuse.edu.