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Discovery, innovation and the creation of new knowledge are at the heart of science and mathematics. New disciplines are evolving at the interfaces of existing fields. To be at the frontier of scientific discovery, the college needs people with the desire and ability to look beyond their discipline. External funding is increasingly focused on large, multidisciplinary research groups and on complex problems with solutions that require research across more than one department or college.

New and redesigned structures will optimize the efficient and nimble use of administrative resources, promote public awareness, and provide bridges to other entities with the university and UT System. The following seven actions will help place the College of Natural Sciences on the frontiers of discovery and enhance our social impact.

10. Reorganize the Biological Sciences and create a new Department of Statistics and Data Science.

  • To increase departmental autonomy and flexibility and promote interactions with other schools and colleges at the university, we will reorganize the existing School of Biological Sciences and the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry into four new departments—Chemistry, Integrative Biology, Neuroscience, and Molecular Biosciences—and establish a Department of Statistics and Data Science. These changes will prepare the college for its collaboration with the Dell Medical School and promote advancement in the biomedical sciences.

11. Create a master space plan that focuses on using space efficiently to promote community, communication and integration.

  • With expert consultants, we will create a master space plan with priorities, timelines, and specific occupancy plans for renovation and modernization of our teaching and research facilities. Space is a college resource that will be used efficiently and in alignment with the strategic plan of the college. The multidisciplinary use of space will be encouraged to foster interactions at the interfaces of traditional disciplines, including the co-location of teaching space and research groups from multiple departments and disciplines in the same building. New space will be designed to provide maximum flexibility, sustainability and energy efficiency.

12. Provide seed funding and opportunities for college-wide initiatives that operate at the interface of existing and emerging fields.

  • Many leading research universities have recognized the value of providing competitive internal funding to their faculty as a means of nucleating research projects with the aim of securing multimillion-dollar federal funding in the form of interdisciplinary center grants. As part of a transformative effort in the college, we plan a competitive program that will provide seed funding for interdisciplinary projects that are co-mentored by faculty members in different departments or colleges. This is a mechanism that we will also use to catalyze interactions with the Dell Medical School.

13. Seed new ideas in the college by bringing visiting faculty to campus and promoting college-wide faculty collaboration.

  • We will work to identify funding sources for two-week to one-semester visits for faculty from outside institutions. These visits will include seminars, classes, workshops and colloquia with the visiting faculty member to spur long-term interaction and collaboration with natural sciences students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty.
  • The dean’s office will develop an “Expanding Interfaces” faculty presentation program. This will provide the opportunity for a small group of faculty members from different departments and colleges to present related talks on a common theme to the college faculty at large, followed by a social event to promote interaction and future collaborations among our faculty members. This effort will strengthen and support our effort to hire faculty at the interface of disciplines.

14. Invest in core research and computational facilities and systems that allow faculty members, students and staff to maintain their place on the frontiers of discovery.

  • Core facilities are a key strength of the College of Natural Sciences. We will work to ensure that high-end instruments provided by the college and the university as part of start-up, retention and other agreements are made as broadly accessible as possible, that facilities are shared across departments and centers, and that facilities, support staff and services are provided at a competitive cost to researchers.
  • To maintain access to state-of-the-art instrumentation for students and researchers, we will develop a mechanism for faculty members, departments, centers and the college to provide matching funds for high-priority instrumentation grant applications.

15. Transform and develop research centers to address the new scientific challenges of the 21st century.

  • We will evaluate existing and proposed organized research units within the college to ensure that they provide a broad platform that facilitates interaction not available within an existing department or school structure. Their influence will be “vertical” as well as “horizontal,” benefiting faculty at all levels, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduates. Centers and institutes will provide bridges with other colleges, schools and university units. Possibilities for new organized research units and opportunities for the consolidation, evolution and expiration of existing organized research units will be considered.

16. Continuously assess the relevance and quality of our organizational structures and administrative processes.

  • The college will make changes to improve management, productivity and cost efficiency in research and education.
  • We will work with the rest of the university to respond to the recommendations of the president’s business productivity report.