Progress on Construction, Hiring, Planning

September 2018

My wife, Tina, and I arrived on campus just in time to embrace the beautiful late summer in Oregon. Our time here has been nothing but a pleasure. We’ve been welcomed with open arms in most every interaction we’ve had.

To join the University of Oregon now, when the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact is moving full steam ahead through its formative stages, is, in a word, exhilarating.

In my first two weeks of work, crews erected a large tower crane. After two years of excitement and buzz, the Knight Campus is rising out of the ground. The project remains on schedule for a spring 2020 opening.

Beyond construction, we’re making tremendous progress in a myriad of other ways. During my transition, I set in motion a strategic planning process before the details of day-to-day management obscured the urgent need to look ahead. In fact, we are a third of the way through the process, after hiring Nexight Group, an outside consultant, to facilitate the process and complete about 30 interviews with key stakeholders. The results of those interviews seeded discussions at a workshop in September with about 35 UO stakeholders from around campus, including faculty members ranging from the sciences to the humanities and professional schools.

We’re synthesizing the products of that daylong event to form the basis of our first meeting with our newly constituted External Advisory Board (EAB), a collection of some of the country’s most experienced and insightful minds in the innovation space. We’ll be posting more information on the EAB to our website very shortly.

After the External Advisory Board, the strategic planning process will incorporate feedback from our Internal Advisory Board and my leadership team, culminating in a strategic plan defining the initial Knight Campus focal areas and strategic priorities. These will guide our faculty hiring and programming, shaping the early phases of the initiative.

Meanwhile, we’re progressing with a pair of faculty searches. The first, an open-rank position, was posted over the summer, and the search committee is working through the applications. A second position was recently posted as well. I am thrilled that the search for this second position focuses on neuroengineering and allows me to work closely with neuroscience colleagues across the institution including those at our Institute of Neuroscience. This position is partially supported by a generous gift from the Robert and Leona DeArmond Trust.

I’m in the midst of an on-boarding process that mixes routine meetings with internal and external orientation meetings and events. To date I have met individually with more than three dozen individuals, which has only reinforced my excitement about the strong collaborative spirit across campus and the opportunities to do even more together. In addition, I’ve met several times with colleagues at OHSU and have already been approved as an adjunct faculty member there to further our research and academic interactions. I will also be working closely with Oregon State University leadership, as well as federal, state, and local officials, innovation and business leaders, and their stakeholders around the state.

Finally, I am excited to bring my research program to the UO. My lab is already set up, and we are ordering necessary new equipment, including a microcomputed tomography imaging core facility that will be available to UO faculty members. My federal and industry grants are being transferred to the UO, and I have hired three lab employees, while temporarily continuing to manage a team of students and postdocs remotely in Georgia.

My lab will continue NIH-funded work here on the mechanobiology of vascular growth and tissue regeneration as well as intraarticular delivery strategies for osteoarthritis. With my move, the UO has also become part of two national consortia, the Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine, funded by the Department of Defense, and the Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Meanwhile, construction crews are largely done with excavation and will be pouring the first slab shortly. Throughout the fall, you can look for the structure to emerge quickly. Know that as you watch the steel and rebar begin to take shape, we are also hard at work crafting the institutional foundation of this transformative endeavor. I look forward to celebrating many milestones with you as this vision becomes a reality.