When Christina Hansen came to UC Irvine, she didn’t know what stem cells were. But she later helped establish guidelines for their use in research. Her office didn’t have computers, but it became the first at a UC campus to use them for scanning in and tracking research grants and contracts online.
Taking on challenges and crafting effective solutions are characteristic of Hansen, assistant vice chancellor for research administration, who retires in September after 21 years at UCI and 11 years at UCLA. In that time, she has gained widespread recognition for innovation and excellence.
Hansen played a key role in UCI’s evolution into a research powerhouse that pulls in nearly a third of a billion dollars annually in contract and grant funding. She built an efficient infrastructure to support and encourage this steady growth while ensuring that campus researchers remain accountable to the public they serve.
“Chris is well known nationally for her knowledge and expertise,” says Susan V. Bryant, vice chancellor for research. “She has been a valued resource to the campus and the UC system on all issues related to research policy.”
Hansen came to UCI to direct the contract and grant administration office, which approves research proposals for submission and receives award funding for distribution. In 1988, it was a small operation. Few policies were in place, and campus researchers got only $61 million in annual support. That would soon change.
“I immediately set out to professionalize our functions,” Hansen says. “And then the job grew, and it grew, and it grew. Over two decades, the university has changed a lot.”
Research at UCI exploded. Funding steadily increased to a record $327 million in 2007-08. (It was $318 million this past fiscal year.) In addition to handling the burgeoning demands of contract and grant administration, Hansen’s office expanded to oversee institutional review for stem cell research, radioactive drug research, export controls, research-related conflict-of-interest issues and the campus’s thousands of human subject and animal research protocols.
“In this area of research administration, the expectation for accountability and compliance with state and federal regulations has grown,” says Bill Parker, former vice chancellor for research. “It’s what society expects from a major university, and Chris has met all these challenges as her responsibilities increased.”
“I’ve taken great satisfaction in problem-solving for faculty and staff to create policies and procedures that make things easier for everyone,” Hansen says.
Upon retiring, she’ll apply these skills in different realms, such as the golf course, where she vows to play more and lower her score. Hansen also plans to tap her encyclopedic knowledge of research rules as a consultant for other institutions.
“But I’m going to miss the great people in my office and all the friends I’ve made on campus,” she says. “It’s been my life’s work. We’ve accomplished a lot.”