VCU’s research centers and institutes “serve as enterprise-wide engines to drive cross-disciplinary innovation,” said P. Srirama Rao, Ph.D., vice president’s office vice president. for research and innovation. (Allen Jones, University Marketing)

As Virginia Commonwealth University rises to meet societal challenges, new research centers selected for their transdisciplinary nature expand a campus environment rich in research, scholarship, and creativity.

This summer, a committee convened by John Ryan, Ph.D., associate vice president for research development, and Ram Gupta, Ph.D., associate dean for research and graduate affairs and professor of chemical engineering and of Life Sciences at the College of Engineering, reviewed applications and voted to establish six new graduate-level research institutes and centers, bringing the total to 16.

With financial support from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation as well as external funding, these transdisciplinary hubs will foster increased collaborative and unique research beyond the scope of what can be accomplished by one department. , an individual school or college. They add value to the intellectual power, resources, potential for collaboration, and resource development of the university while addressing critical scientific or societal issues and needs that are not yet met within VCU.

The review process ensures that these university-level research institutes and centers align with key initiatives of the One VCU Strategic Research Priority Plan:

  • Enrich the human experience.
  • Health optimization.
  • Towards a just and equitable society.
  • Support sustainable energy and environments.

Between the designation of the six institutes this year and the nine established last year, OVPRI has invested approximately $2 million in equipment and personnel to support VCU’s research strengths across multiple disciplines and across all three campuses.

“VCU’s research institutes and centers play a key role in advancing the One VCU strategic research priority plan,” said P. Srirama Rao, Ph.D., Vice President of OVPRI. “They serve as enterprise-wide engines that drive cross-disciplinary innovation underpinned by shared resources, talented teams of faculty, students, and staff, and approaches that will ultimately solve the most critical challenges. and advancing ideas towards public good and societal impact.”

The new institutes and centers are:

  • The Drug Discovery Center (Director, Saïd Sebti, Massey School of Medicine and Cancer Center; Deputy Director, Martin Safo, Ph.D., School of Pharmacy) will foster and nurture cross-disciplinary and synergistic collaborations among faculty to advance fundamental discoveries made at VCU from drug discovery and development through commercialization with the ultimate goal of advancing new treatments for cancer, neurological, cardiovascular, infectious and other diseases.
  • The Center for Microbiome Engineering and Data Analysis (co-directors Tomasz Arodz, Ph.D., College of Engineering, and Gregory Buck, Ph.D., School of Medicine) will lead a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative effort to study human and environmental microbiomes while developing novel computational systems and analytical tools to interpret, present and visualize multi-omics microbiome data.
  • The Center for Research in the Humanities (Director, Cristina Stanciu, Ph.D., College of Humanities; Associate Director, Jesse Goldstein, Ph.D., CHS) becomes a university-level center. The center provides a forum for intellectual exchange across VCU, crossing conventional disciplinary boundaries and encouraging collaboration across the university as a whole and the local community.
  • The Creative Research Institute (Director, Diane Derr, Ph.D., VCUarts Qatar), the first at VCUarts Qatar, will support collaborations with VCUarts in Richmond and across VCU, and serve as a design hub for research at sister schools in the educational city of Qatar to advance societal impacts and creative research contributions.
  • The Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies (director, F. Gerard Moeller, MD, School of Medicine) becomes a university-level institute. The institute explores the complex problems of drugs through multidisciplinary research and training, with an emphasis on the neurosciences of addictions and related neurobehavioral disorders.
  • The Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (Director, Puru Jena, Ph.D., College of Humanities and Sciences; Associate Directors, Jayasimha Atulasimha, Ph.D., College of Engineering, and Damian Pitt, Ph.D., L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs) will address the existential threat of climate change by creating sustainable energy systems and sustainable ecologies, while educating students and working with community partners to address these challenges.

Rao said he expects undergraduate and graduate students to directly and indirectly benefit from VCU’s graduate-level institutes and centers by providing them with multiple opportunities to engage with faculty working at the cutting-edge of their disciplines or perhaps to conduct independent research on the state of – state-of-the-art equipment, as well as opportunities to collaborate and network with mentors who produce pioneering knowledge through their participation in these centers.

For more information, visit research.vcu.edu/resources/institutes-and-centers/.