UC Irvine chemistry professor John C. Hemminger has been appointed vice chancellor for research, effective Nov. 1. Hemminger is a nationally recognized chemist whose research has yielded significant advances in nanotechnology manufacturing, efforts to combat atmospheric pollution and, most recently, solar fuels.
“It’s very exciting,” said Hemminger, who had served as dean of the School of Physical Sciences since 2006. “Irvine is a young campus, but it’s been extremely successful. That success comes from the outstanding faculty and students here.”
One of the campus’s biggest jobs, the vice chancellor for research oversees about $300 million annually in research contracts and grants, ensuring that they meet strict compliance requirements, and distributes key seed money to promising new research areas. Hemminger will oversee about 325 employees, as well as cutting-edge laboratories, equipment and research centers. He’ll be responsible for research integrity and intellectual property issues. Hemminger also will serve as the public face of the university’s core research mission. It’s a role he’s familiar with. As chair of the U.S. Department of Energy’s basic energy sciences advisory committee, he has briefed House and Senate committees on sustainable energy and scientific policy.
But Hemminger is as comfortable speaking to a group of high school science teachers as members of Congress.
“I think it’s really important for university researchers to get the public excited about what they’re doing. For one thing, they’re paying most of the bills. And getting people excited is how you get the next generation of scientists into the university,” he said.
Hemminger, who along with scientists at several California institutions won a $122 million grant to set up a solar fuels research hub this summer, said “it’s critical that the U.S. maintain its lead in energy research – both for its own economic security and for future sustainability.”
He also plans to help faculty work more closely with industry – “something not many universities do well” – transforming academic research more quickly into practical applications.
Many at UCI praised Hemminger.
“An exceptional scientist, an experienced administrator and a committed campus collaborator, Professor Hemminger will provide continued excellent leadership,” said Chancellor Michael Drake and Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost Michael Gottfredson in a joint statement.
Biological chemistry professor Peter Donovan, who led the vice chancellor search committee, said: “We saw John’s administrative experience and knowledge of the UC system as great strengths and felt he could pick up the reins of the position very quickly at a critical time. John is also recognized as an outstanding researcher. I’m delighted he accepted the position.”
Ken Janda, associate dean of physical sciences, has been named interim dean of the school while a replacement search is conducted.
Hemminger earned a bachelor’s in chemistry at UCI and a doctorate in chemical physics at Harvard University. He joined the UCI faculty in 1978. He has won major research awards and fellowships from the American Chemical Society, American Vacuum Society, National Science Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, American Physical Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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