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Initiative will connect research across NYC, Ithaca campuses

Mon, 05/22/2017

A new initiative on academic integration will promote, bolster and enhance research across Cornell’s campuses, tying together investigation and discovery collaboratively at Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell Tech and Cornell’s main campus in Ithaca.

The broad effort will harness the expanded research capabilities of WCM, which has increased its faculty, funding and footprint in Manhattan in the past several years through increased collaborations with the larger life, physical, information and social sciences faculty on the Ithaca campus. These collaborations are expected to increase markedly the number and scope of combined Center and Program grants from the National Institutes of Health that will bridge research teams across the campuses, including Cornell Tech.

To lead this new initiative, Dr. Gary Koretzky ’78, dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, has been named vice dean, focused on academic integration at the Ithaca campus, Cornell Tech and Weill Cornell Medicine. Koretzky will report to Cornell University Provost Michael Kotlikoff and Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell University provost for medical affairs. He will split his time between Ithaca and New York City.

“Fostering a greater integration of our academic programs is a critical element in our connecting Cornell strategy. This effort will leverage the breadth and excellence of Cornell faculty through specific initiatives to facilitate and nurture combined research programs and integrate academic units, as well as strengthen the connections between New York City and Ithaca,” Kotlikoff said. “I am delighted that Dr. Gary Koretzky, who has been successful at building strong multidisciplinary programs at Weill Cornell Medicine, has agreed to spearhead this initiative. By further aligning faculty recruitment, graduate education and research infrastructure, Cornell will continue to break down barriers, build relationships among researchers and create additional collaborative research opportunities. One anticipated outcome of this strategy is to grow individual projects into larger, multidisciplinary programs that have increased impact and visibility.”

“Weill Cornell Medicine’s research expansion over the past four years has created a community of investigators who are making important discoveries that are directly relevant to human health and disease,” said Koretzky, who also is the Frank H.T. Rhodes Distinguished Professor in Cardiovascular Biology and Genetics. “Transforming outstanding research projects into world-class programs requires bringing scientists with complementary interests and skills together. The depth and breadth of research investigation on the Ithaca campus represents an extraordinary opportunity for this integration.”

“At Weill Cornell Medicine, we pride ourselves on our collaborative spirit,” Choi said. “Bringing investigators together from different fields can not only lead to innovations in research, but foster an environment of learning and the exchange of new ideas. As a respected scientist and educator, Dr. Koretzky is the ideal choice for this new role. His vision for this initiative will undoubtedly help to advance our mission of collaboration, bridging the three Cornell campuses and facilitating new partnerships.”

The initiative will use four primary approaches to integrate and promote research and educational synergies among the campuses.

The first is to incentivize faculty at all three campuses to seek more NIH-funded program grants to support research cores and components that are difficult to fund through other mechanisms; bring scientists from different disciplines together and build synergies around a common theme; and, eventually, to use the successful acquisition of these grants as a springboard to achieve NIH Center of Excellence status as more ambitious programs grow and develop.

The second approach is by bringing faculty together through two symposia a year (one in Ithaca and one in New York City) to develop new, collaborative research projects that will bridge the campuses and bring in additional external funding.

The third approach is to build on the “radical collaboration” task forces, already established at Cornell’s main campus, to create interaction through faculty working groups. Three disciplines will be considered initially: genetics; biomedical engineering; and computational biology. Working groups in these disciplines will hold discussions on all three campuses to propose ways to better integrate these programs.

The fourth approach is to increase collaboration between the graduate schools on all three campuses by building a community of scholarship among graduate students. This could include facilitating student travel between campuses to foster collaborative laboratory efforts, holding joint classes (in person or virtual) and sharing mentorship by faculty with the aim of reducing existing barriers between Cornell’s graduate programs. This strategy would build on what is already a successful integration effort between the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Cornell Tech, where students on each campus have been taking courses with their colleagues on the other campus.

Koretzky, in leading these strengthened collaborations, will work closely with the vice provost for research; a search is underway to replace Senior Vice Provost Bob Buhrman, who has transformed the position over the past 10 years, Kotlikoff said. In addition, Koretzky also will work closely with two other recently announced WCM leaders. Dr. Carl Nathan, chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the R.A. Rees Pritchett Professor of Microbiology, will become dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, pending approval by the Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Overseers and the Cornell University Board of Trustees, effective Sept. 1. David Christini, professor of biomedical engineering in medicine and of physiology and biophysics, will become vice dean of the graduate school after serving as associate dean for programmatic development there since 2013.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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