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Program to Prepare Future Research Leaders to Take the Next Big Step

Division of Research Accepting Nominations for 10-Month Program

By Chris Carroll

Aerial photo of UMD campus

Photo by John T. Consoli

A new program from the Division of Research launching this week will give researchers tools to create multidisciplinary projects across campus, leading to large-scale awards.

The University of Maryland is launching a program this week designed to support its newest research leaders, helping promising scholars expand their impact in their fields while providing the leadership skills to compete for large-scale multidisciplinary awards.

UMD President Darryll J. Pines introduced the Research Leaders Fellows Program in his inaugural message to campus, saying, “In this time of change, we need to be prepared and competitive as new research funding opportunities arise.”

The program will give faculty the tools to come up with transformative ideas, build cross-disciplinary teams, craft proposals and lead projects that create major impacts, Vice President for Research Laurie E. Locascio said. 

Intended primarily for recently tenured associate professors (although assistant and full professors and professional-track faculty may also participate), the program will welcome approximately 18 fellows representing every school and college who will receive training and mentorship from UMD’s current research leaders. A key aspect of the 10-month program involves participants learning to combine their collective expertise in novel ways—think classics with fire protection engineering, for instance—to take on the most important problems, Locascio said.

Breaking through disciplinary and institutional barriers to harness the most creative ideas will help keep Maryland at the forefront of research and innovation as funding agencies, including foundations and federal and state governments, increasingly look to support multidisciplinary, multi-institutional projects, Locascio said.

“This program is timely, because we’re at a critical juncture for public universities in general, and these researchers are at a critical point in their careers,” she said. “The breakthroughs related to many of the most difficult challenges in our world today—COVID-19, racism, climate change—will come at the intersection of different research disciplines, and the convergence of many ways of thinking.”

Nominations will be solicited from deans of each school and college; the Division of Research is encouraging faculty to self-nominate as well.

The program—the first of its kind at Maryland—provides a welcome new opportunity to help faculty develop their careers while building connections with one another and university leadership, said Robert M. Briber, a professor and interim dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering, who discussed the new program with Locascio at length as she led its development.

“Our junior faculty are typically very successful when they first come to the university, and this provides them a path for growth to the next level—from supporting their individual lab to a multi-PI, multi-institutional research effort,” Briber said. “Successful faculty always look for the opportunity to grow and to expand their impact in their field, and this program provides the opportunity to gain the experience they need to move down that pathway.”

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