About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Rensselaer) is America’s first technological research university and is a top 50 global research institution. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and over 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty, alumni, and alumnae include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.

Research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer maintains a strong reputation as one of the most influential technological research universities of the 21st century. Through strategic investments in top researchers, sophisticated research platforms, and robust strategic partnerships, Rensselaer continues to change the world through Global Challenge-linked research. From climate change to cybersecurity, human health to sustainable infrastructure, our researchers demonstrate a relentless curiosity and unwavering commitment to understand and solve the world’s most pressing challenges.

As a research powerhouse, and a Carnegie Tier 1 research university, Rensselaer leads research across five Signature Research Thrusts that are aligned to The Rensselaer Plan 2024. This strategic plan keeps the Institute on a steady and exciting path to lead in key research domains, applying “science to the common purposes of life.” This plan will stand for years to come and will continue to drive Rensselaer research to even greater heights. Guided by this plan, we have created a research portfolio of a size, significance, quality, and prominence that positions us to impact Global Challenges, and the five Signature Thrusts and core research strengths at Rensselaer will serve as the foundation for our continued growth and global impact.

The Five Signature Research Thrusts

Energy, Environment and Smart Systems – we explore renewable technologies, energy efficiency, gain a fundamental understanding of global environmental change to preserve the biodiversity of the planet, and strive to achieve sustainable, resilient and sentient urban environments that work autonomously to meet long-term environmental, economic, social and recreational needs of globally and culturally diverse populations.

Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials – our excellence in this area builds from the fundamental understanding – experimental, theoretical, and computational – of the underlying atomic and molecular properties of a wide range of nanostructured materials. We are developing affordable and sustainable methods for manufacturing new functional hybrid materials and the hierarchical systems and products based upon them.

Computational Science and Engineering – we are home to one of the largest supercomputers in the world and focus on high performance computing, multiscale modeling and simulation, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and data analytics, which supports research and innovation on a broad front.

Biotechnology and the Life Sciences – from Alzheimer’s and diabetes to cancer and infectious diseases, we are creating new routes to drug discovery and developing and understanding the fundamental mechanisms of diseases. Through a multidisciplinary approach, we continue to foster important advances in areas such as biomanufacturing, antimicrobial surfaces and coatings, and regenerative medicine.

Media, Arts, Science and Technology – we facilitate new approaches to networking, advanced visualization, sensor design, haptics, and use cognitive computing and immersive technologies are merged to advance effective decision making across a wide range of applications.

Throughout all of the Signature Research Thrusts, our faculty and student researchers work across their lanes to collaborate. Rensselaer is committed to growth in the five Signature Research Thrusts in the following ways:

  • Grow research funding to $250 million in annual research expenditures.
  • Strengthen basic research endeavors across the Institute.
  • Promote applied research that enables rapid translation of innovative solutions to key Global Challenges.
  • Continue to recruit and support leading faculty in identified priority areas, with a goal of building the tenured and tenure-track faculty size to 500.
  • Continue to invest in exceptional research infrastructure, including important core facilities within flexible research platforms.
  • Establish partnerships through multiple sectors to expand the research reach and impact of the Institute.
  • Position Rensselaer to shape the national and international scientific, technological, economic, and social agenda.
  • Measure key outcomes related to impact and leadership, including faculty recognition and sponsored research growth.

Rensselaer continues to garner significant research support through government and corporate partnerships. Our research has grown from $37 million in 1999 to $104.7 million today. Research partnerships include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Boeing Company, Corning, IBM, Medtronic, Optum Labs, and many others. We also receive funding from a variety of organizations including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health. 

Rensselaer is home to a network of research platforms and 32 research centers including the:

  • Cognitive and Immersive Systems Laboratory and the Center for Cognition, Communication and Culture
  • Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Center for Computational Innovations
  • Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center
  • Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated Systems
  • Darrin Fresh Water Institute
  • NSF Engineering Research Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications
  • Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications
  • Lighting Research Center
  • Center for Modeling, Simulation, and Imaging in Medicine
  • Scientific Computation Research Center
  • U.S. Army Research Laboratory—Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center, part of the Network Science and Technology center
  • Heparin Applied Research Center
  • Center for Architecture Science and Ecology
  • Center for Automation Technologies and Systems
  • Center for Future Energy Systems

Through these centers, approximately two-thirds of Rensselaer research is expended, which shows the breadth of interdisciplinary research underway. Most recently, we launched the Rensselaer Astrobiology Research and Education Center and the Center for Mobility with Vertical Lift. Collectively, the signature research thrusts, centers, and platforms provide the basis for significant contributions in the years ahead.

Legacy of Innovation

Created in 1999, the Office of the Vice President for Research aided in the growth of the Institute’s overall research expenditures, which reached $104.7million in 2019. Annual NIH research expenditures have grown from $400,000 in 1999 to more than $12 million today. With funding from governmental bodies such as DOD and NSF, as well as from private entities like Boeing and IBM, research at Rensselaer is poised to grow exponentially in the years to come. Within our broad Institute-wide and School-based research centers on the Rensselaer campus, 1,330 graduate students create new and innovative ways to address the urgent issues of today and the emerging issues of tomorrow. In 2018, Rensselaer produced 161 Ph.D. students who will follow in the footsteps of the alumni and alumnae who have established our near 200-year-old legacy of changing the world: 

  • Harry H. Rousseau – Panama Canal Builder
  • Lewis & William Gurley – Manufacturers of Scientific Instruments
  • Steven Sasson – Inventor of the Digital Camera
  • Ray Tomlinson, Inventor of Email
  • Claire Fraser – Pioneering Genome Explorer
  • Howard Isermann – Sunscreen Developer
  • W. Lincoln Hawkins – Chemist, Inventor, and Advocate
  • Alan B. Du Mont – Regarded as the Founder of the American Television Industry
  • Nancy Fitzroy, Internationally Recognized Expert in Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow

Since its founding, not only has Rensselaer been on the cutting edge of technology and scientific advancement—we have defined it and continue to do so today. Visit dearworld.rpi.edu to learn more about our legacy of innovation.

About the Position

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a growing and vibrant global research institution, is among an elite group of top-tier private and Carnegie Tier 1 research universities. Rensselaer seeks an inspiring leader with intellectual breadth, strong interpersonal skills, demonstrated expertise in research-driven programs and policies, and experience leading complex teams and/or organizations.

The Vice President for Research plays an essential role in the central leadership of the Institute’s research, scholarly, and creative programs. Reporting directly to the President and working collaboratively with the Provost, the President’s Cabinet, Academic Deans, Center Directors, faculty, staff, and students, the Vice President for Research facilitates and directs the Institute’s research and discovery initiatives for both funded and unfunded efforts. The Vice President will also identify and develop innovative research strategies to create a research-enriched learning experience for students, faculty, and partners. Cultivating relationships between the Institute and its private, public, and community-based partners will be a priority for this leader.    

The Vice President will provide administrative, financial, and overall direction for several major interdisciplinary research centers and platforms including: the Cognitive and Immersive Systems Laboratory; the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications; the Center for the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Center; the Center for Materials, Devices and Integrated Systems; the Center for Computational Innovations; the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center; and the Scientific Computation Research Center

In addition, a broad array of Institute-Wide Centers fall under the direction of the Vice President for Research, including the Center for Automation Technologies; the Scientific Computation Research Center; the Darrin Fresh Water Institute; the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology; the Center for Future Energy Systems; the Center for Modeling, Simulation, and Imaging in Medicine; and the Center for Network Science and Technology.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Participate as an active member of the President’s Cabinet to establish the vision and goals for Rensselaer and effectively communicate and organize to achieve those outcomes.
  • Work to identify new major research opportunities for individual and special group research from federal, state, and corporate sources, with particular interest in major federal research sources.
  • Assume responsibilities delegated by the President in the President’s absence.
  • Consult with and advise the President on matters related to Rensselaer research programs based on both current conditions and future developments.  Keep the President and Executive Cabinet informed of problems, trends, and actions taken in relation to research.
  • Directly or through subordinate staff, oversee the day-to-day operations of the interdisciplinary research centers listed above.
  • Direct mechanics for research initiatives for new faculty and research enhancement for existing faculty, through contacts with federal and state funding agencies, corporate leadership, and research foundations.
  • Assume responsibility for the development and presentation of a performance plan and a performance-based budget that realistically reflects the priorities and needs of the Division.
  • Ensure fiscal responsibility for decisions regarding expenditures in the Office of Research.  Develop and implement expenditure tracking and controls, prepare monthly performance and budget reports, and initiate appropriate cost containment measures.
  • Formulate and administer policies and develop long range goals and objectives.
  • Review and analyze proposals submitted for internal resources to determine if benefits derived and possible applications justify expenditures.
  • Approve and submit proposals considered feasible to the Cabinet for consideration and allocation of funds and resources.
  • Oversee internal controls and compliance with financial and regulatory requirements as they pertain to research administration, including federal research compliance involving human subjects, animal welfare, and biological safety.
  • Cultivate and enhance ties to all funding sources for Rensselaer research.  Oversee work with other Rensselaer organizational units to coordinate contacts and interactions, and integrate externally focused efforts to achieve funding goals.
  • Oversee coordination of large interdisciplinary research proposals that require the enlistment of industry, organizational cooperation, and cost sharing, working with Rensselaer entities as appropriate.
  • Establish partnerships between Rensselaer and other major research universities, government laboratories, corporate entities, and community organizations.
  • Select and manage supervisory and support staff to assist in attainment of goals and objectives.
  • Carry out administrative and people management duties inherent with leading a team of direct reports including hiring, evaluation, training, developing, supporting, coaching, and when necessary, counseling and disciplinary action.
  • Ensure that the Institute is in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local regulations and codes. Identify legal requirements and government reporting regulations affecting research operations.
  • Establish a work environment in which participation, respect, and excellence are fostered.  Establish and promote professional relationships and open communication among all departments.  Promote team-building and a strong people-orientation, emphasizing patience and flexibility in working through others.
  • Serve as the Rensselaer representative at professional and civic functions.  May serve on committees or boards as requested.
  • Advance Rensselaer interests with national institutes and foundations, government agencies, legislatures, industry, and research consortia both domestically and internationally.
  • Foster excellence in research throughout all disciplines.


  • A terminal degree with scholarly, research, or creative accomplishments commensurate with the rank of full professor in their home tenure department.
  • The ability to articulate a strong vision for the Institute’s research and development missions.
  • A commitment to academic excellence, collaboration, and high academic and ethical standards.
  • Innovative leadership in research program development.
  • The ability to communicate and work effectively with multiple and diverse constituencies, including faculty, staff, and students, as well as local, state, and national constituents in the public and private sectors.
  • A comprehensive understanding of the importance of research, creative activity, and scholarship across disciplines.
  • A commitment to adopting and promoting principles of affirmative action and equal opportunity, and achieving diversity in the workplace.
  • Familiarity with national research policy issues and a track record of promoting external research funding from federal, state, and private sources.
  • Experience with the development and management of large research centers and core research facilities.
  • Strong strategic management, finance, and budget skills.
  • A commitment to shared Institute governance and collaborative decision-making, as well as skill working in a climate of openness, transparency, and mutual respect across all levels of the Institute.
  • Demonstrated skill and experience promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion across all aspects of the Institute.

Parker Executive Search is assisting Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with the recruitment of qualified candidates for this integral position.  Initial screening of applications will begin immediately and will continue until an appointment is made.  Interested parties are encouraged to submit their materials as soon as possible to receive optimal consideration. Inquiries, applications, and nominations are strongly encouraged and will be considered in confidence. Application materials should include a letter addressing how the candidate’s experiences match the position requirements, a curriculum vitae, and contact information for at least five references.  Confidential inquiries, nominations, and application materials should be directed to https://www.parkersearch.com/current-opportunities or:

Porsha L. Williams, Vice President
Grant Higgison, Associate
pwilliams@parkersearch.com || ghiggison@parkersearch.com
Phone: 770-804-1996 ext. 118 Fax: 770-804-1917

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, marital status, age, uniformed services, veteran status, or physical or mental disability in admission to career and technical education programs and/or activities, or employment practices in accordance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Revised 1992, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

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