Congratulations to two faculty members in the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology who have been selected as Emerging Research Leaders by the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

As members of the Emerging Research Leaders AcademyChris Brooke, associate professor with the Department of Microbiology, and Erik Nelson, associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, will attend a series of monthly, in-person workshops this year on topics such as strategic leadership, mentoring, building diverse and inclusive teams, effective research communication, and leading and managing teams. Each participant will also develop a five-year action plan and receive recognition as an Emerging Research Leadership Scholar upon completion of the program.

The institute received over 50 nominations from department heads and directors associated with more than 35 units across campus. From those nominations, fifteen outstanding participants were chosen for the inaugural cohort.

Mid-career faculty are an often overlooked group for faculty development. Having passed one of the most significant milestones of their careers, common wisdom suggests that they have all the tools they need to do their jobs well. They have established their research labs, developed their syllabi, and have even amassed research funding and publications.

“Mid-career faculty have different needs than early-career faculty regarding mentoring and support," said Maggie Berg, who was among the research development professionals on campus who recognized an opportunity to invest in mid-career faculty development, and in turn, invest in the University of Illinois’ research enterprise. "Researchers in this stage of their career might be faced with transitioning their research program to be more responsive to current issues, funding opportunities, or their own interests. This may be a time when they start to consider campus leadership roles or take on leadership of large, multi-PI projects.”

“Our campus is an incredibly fertile environment for faculty research excellence. IHSI is privileged to partner with other campus interdisciplinary research units and colleges to develop the Emerging Research Leaders Academy,” said IHSI Director Stephen Boppart.

With support and input from Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, The Center for Social & Behavioral Science, College of Applied Health Sciences, Grainger College of Engineering, and the Office of Proposal Development, IHSI developed a year-long program that provides vital leadership and team science training to help faculty pursue large, multi-PI grants, lead campus research initiatives, enhance their own research programs, and ultimately position Illinois for research excellence.

In addition to Nelson and Brooke, those selected include Richard Benton, School of Labor and Employment Relations; Mark Davis, Illinois Natural History Survey; Ying Diao, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Beckman Institute; Kaiyu Guan, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences; Carla D. Hunter, Department of Psychology; Halil Kilicoglu, School of Information Sciences; Colleen Lewis, Department of Computer Science; Tara Leytham-Powell, School of Social Work; Laura Mattie, Department of Speech & Hearing Science; Annette McCoy, Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine; Laura Rice, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health; Andre Schleife, Department of Materials Science and Engineering; and Jodi Schneider, School of Information Sciences.

Boppart sees this new program as a boon to the University of Illinois research enterprise. “This new faculty development program will support our tenured faculty who are poised to expand their research and leadership skills beyond their own laboratories and bring about new interdisciplinary multi-investigator center- and program-level ideas that will leverage the incredible breadth and depth of expertise and resources that we have here at UIUC. IHSI is grateful for the strong and positive response we have had from campus units and faculty and look forward to building this academy to help further elevate the research excellence we all pursue,” he said.