Staff changes will support interdisciplinary research

The establishment of a new leadership position in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation (OVPRI) is among the steps announced Oct. 13 to sustain successful strategies and initiatives in support of collaborative, interdisciplinary research at Cornell.

Julia Thom-Levy, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named associate vice provost for physical sciences, effective Nov. 10.

The Office of the Provost also announced that Gary Koretzky, professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, is stepping down from his role as vice provost for academic integration in February to take a sabbatical. Paula Cohen, professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and associate vice provost for life sciences, will assume responsibility for the programs established through the academic integration initiative.

Thom-Levy’s appointment complements two previously established associate vice provost positions, one focused on life sciences (held by Cohen) and the other on social sciences, held by Maria Fitzpatrick, professor of economics and public policy in the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.

A particle physicist, Thom-Levy and her research groups develop a range of detectors used at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and facilities such as CHESS for applications and experiments in particle physics, soft matter properties and fast dynamics of condensed matter under high pressure conditions.

In addition to her research activities, Thom-Levy has served as vice provost for academic innovation since the position was established in 2017. The position facilitates development and implementation of data-driven teaching methods. During her five years in the role, Thom-Levy formed the Center for Teaching Innovation, expanded the Active Learning Initiative across Cornell, and oversaw initiatives such as the transition to the Canvas digital learning environment, teaching innovation grants and the Gateway Courses Initiative.

“Julia’s enthusiasm and energy have been critical in advancing the Active Learning Initiative and creating the Center for Teaching Innovation,” said Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff. “Her leadership has positioned Cornell as a leader in teaching innovation.”

The Office of the Provost is initiating an internal search to fill the role of vice provost of academic innovation as Thom-Levy begins her new appointment.

“I’m excited to turn my attention to the challenges of research administration and to work with the new vice president for research and innovation,” Thom-Levy said, referring to Krystyn Van Vliet, associate provost and associate vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who will succeed Emmanuel Giannelis as Cornell’s next vice president for research and innovation in February. “This is a remarkable opportunity to support and facilitate excellence in research at Cornell.”

Koretzky, as vice provost for academic integration since 2018, has spearheaded efforts to facilitate and nurture strategic collaborations between faculty at Cornell’s Ithaca campus, Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Tech. Programs established under the initiative include research symposia that have gathered faculty from the three campuses; intercampus travel grants for doctoral students; and multi-investigator seed grants for intercampus collaborations.

Koretzky said Cohen is ideally positioned to carry forward the work of academic integration. “Paula has been a fantastic partner who helped shape the initiative at every step of the way,” he said.

Intercampus projects conceived or seeded through the initiative’s efforts have gone on to receive an estimated $50.6 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other sources.

“The return on investment is astonishing,” Koretzky said. “The success of these collaborations speaks to the remarkable creativity and dedication of our faculty.”

Kotlikoff said the initiative’s outcomes have exceeded its original goals.

“As a result of the programs Gary built around scholarship, discovery and research, we now have a strong culture of interaction between campuses,” Kotlikoff said. “We have social scientists based in Ithaca teaming up with engineers at Cornell Tech and Cornell law faculty working with clinicians at Weill. The initiative has forged collaborations and interactions that wouldn’t have been imagined otherwise.”

Koretzky, an immunologist, also served as a key member of the leadership team that coordinated Cornell’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the university’s nationally recognized COVID-19 testing and surveillance program. “The entire Cornell community owes tremendous gratitude to Gary for his tireless work during the pandemic,” Kotlikoff said.

J. Edward Anthony is a writer for the office of the vice president for research and innovation.

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