Life Sciences Decentralization Provides a New Opportunity for Growth

Posted: August 6, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Patty Snellings

Each new fiscal year brings opportunities for fresh ideas, growth, and change. And this year, administrators in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) took a fresh look at the organizational structure for the Life Sciences program at the Prince William Campus and decided to make the program independently responsible for fiscal and administrative supervision of its research and research centers. The new structure should result in less red tape, faster turnaround, and more time for science and research, they say.

Life Sciences comprises two broad areas. One is the National Center for Biodefense, which encompasses the biodefense academic and research programs, and the other is molecular biology and functional genomics, which includes the Center for Biomedical Genomics and Informatics, the Center for Genomics of Liver Diseases, and the Shared Research Instrumentation Facility. Academic programs associated with molecular biology and functional genomics are housed in the Department of Molecular and Microbiology. Life Sciences remains part of CAS, even with the restructuring.

“In order to ensure that this operation continues to move forward as aggressively as possible, I thought it necessary to provide a larger degree of autonomy in terms of the day-to-day management,” says CAS Dean Daniele Struppa. The administration of large research programs is distinctly different from other CAS operations, he says, adding that Life Sciences at the Prince William Campus is the fastest growing research unit at George Mason.

“The local management will be the responsibility of Vikas Chandhoke, associate dean for research, and Jerald Coughter, director of life sciences management, two fabulous colleagues who have my complete trust and confidence,” Struppa explains. “Together, we can assess progress and possibly revise the goals. But the decentralization means that they will not need to touch base with my office on any specific decision.”

Chandhoke agrees that decentralization will enhance the growth path of Life Sciences. “Streamlining our organization allows us to respond expeditiously to opportunities to move forward in our academic and research programs,” he says. “We have a competitive advantage because we can make decisions faster.”

Decentralization will also allow Life Sciences to function more efficiently by working independently with the Office of Sponsored Programs on negotiation and administration of its research grants, awards, and contracts, says Coughter. In addition, all personnel-related issues, other than the hiring of tenure-line faculty members, will be handled directly with Human Resources and the Office of Equity and Diversity Services.

Struppa is confident that this decentralization offers more opportunities for Life Sciences to grow and compete for higher visibility in regional and national research arenas. “Even now, when we do an analysis of external dollars per faculty FTE, we see that Life Sciences at the Prince William Campus is one of the most successful research operations at the university,” he says. “A significant reason for the success has been the very entrepreneurial way in which we have developed and supported the operation. The new decentralization will build on this entrepreneurial spirit and allow even faster growth.”

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