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Search moves forward for vice chancellor for research and graduate education

September 19, 2019 By Kelly April Tyrrell

A search for the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s next vice chancellor for research and graduate education is moving forward.

A 15-member search-and-screen committee, chaired by Bill Murphy, professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics and rehabilitation, will conduct a nationwide search to replace Marsha Mailick, who retired in 2018.

Norman Drinkwater, professor of oncology, served as interim vice chancellor before his retirement in August 2019, and Steve Ackerman, atmospheric science professor and former associate vice chancellor for research in the physical sciences, is currently in the interim role.

A position description can be found at

“This is a tremendous opportunity and really an exciting time at the university,” says Murphy, who is also chair of the Forward Bio Initiative, which translates basic discoveries into commercial products and therapies. “We are not only one of the top research institutions in the world, but we are also an institution that wants to be even more innovative and creative about its research enterprise. That combination is quite rare.”

The vice chancellor for research and graduate education oversees UW–Madison’s $1.2 billion annual research spending portfolio, which in 2018 placed the institution 6th in the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development Survey, a measure of university research productivity. As the university’s top research officer, the VCRGE also manages research policy and compliance; heads 18 interdisciplinary research centers, including the Wisconsin Energy Institute and the UW Arboretum; and leads graduate education through oversight of the Graduate School.

“Because this is a campus that is both highly innovative and highly collaborative across disciplines, we need the kind of person who can be a bridge and can work with everyone who is part of our research enterprise,” says Murphy.

That includes the university’s patent and licensing arm — the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation — as well as federal agencies and other external partners, including those in private industry.

“UW–Madison has one of the strongest national and international reputations in research and graduate education. This position is among the most important on our campus,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “The right person will contribute the vision, leadership and experience necessary to maintain and build our reputation and foster discovery and innovation on all fronts.”

The search committee is working with national executive search firm WittKieffer to identify a strong pool of candidates. The firm assisted with a search that began last year and is resuming this fall.

“We would like to identify top candidates here who have been integrally involved in research leadership on campus, and identify those at peer institutions, particularly those who have been creative about growing the research enterprise and have been involved in leadership,” Murphy says. “We want to identify candidates with vision for how we can be creative about graduate education as well.”

The search will proceed through the fall and the committee anticipates finalists will visit campus early in the spring semester. More information will be provided as dates are set.

Members of the search committee also include Veterinary Medicine Professor Lyric Bartholomay; Horticulture Professor Irwin Goldman; Integrative Biology Professor Bill Bement; graduate student in civil and environmental engineering, Beau Burdett; German, Nordic and Slavic Professor Kirsten Wolf; School of Medicine and Public Health Dean Bob Golden; Chemistry Professor and Chair Judith Burstyn; Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Demography and Ecology Marcy Carlson; Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Professor Terri Young; Sea Grant and Aquatic Sciences Center researcher David Hart; Graduate School Assistant Dean Alissa Ewer; School of Education Program Associate Shelby Bowe; the Graduate School dean’s executive assistant, Amy Bergholz; and community member and Morgridge Institute for Research Chairman Fred Robertson.

Questions or nominations can be sent to search and screen committee chair Professor Bill Murphy, c/o Suzanne Teer, WittKieffer search firm, at Please be in touch by Nov. 13, 2019 to ensure consideration.

[Note: An update was made to the list of search committee members on 10/14/19 to reflect a change. Marcy Carlson replaced Katherine Magnuson.]