On Feb. 1, 2023, Cornell will welcome Krystyn Van Vliet as the next Vice President for Research and Innovation.
Van Vliet, who currently serves as the associate provost and associate vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will take over the role onceProf. Emmanuel Giannelis, materials science and engineering completes his five-year term..
“It is exciting that someone of the caliber of Van Vliet has agreed to take on the role. She is an accomplished researcher in her own right and an experienced administrator. We are fortunate to have her lead the Research Division,” Giannelis wrote in a statement to The Sun.
Prof. Paula Cohen, biomedical sciences, the University’s current Associate Provost of Life Sciences, is also optimistic about the appointment of Van Vliet.
“She’s a phenomenal scientist herself,” Cohen said. “She has a really unique blend of research interests, and she’ll also bring new ideas. I’m really excited about the choice.”
According to Cohen, Van Vliet’s work as the head of the Research Division will be far-reaching;the department does everything from providing infrastructure for research, to ensuring legal and ethical research compliance to helping bring research outside of the University to governments and companies.
Van Vliet, who is experienced in materials science and engineering research, expressed how her love of learning and collaboration influenced her decision to work in academia and in administrative roles, eventually leading to her appointment at Cornell.
“I was broadly educated at the undergrad level and even during graduate school. I didn’t stay just in my discipline, and that’s led to a collaborative, interdisciplinary research style that aligns well with Cornell’s focus on radical collaboration,” Van Vliet said.
Cohen said that collaboration is a main component of research at Cornell, and she is excited to work with Van Vliet on improving diversity in research.
“Collaborative research is what Cornell is really known for. The real beauty of research is when you take people of different disciplines and bring them together,” Cohen said. “I’ve spoken to [Van Vliet] about encouraging research development and strategic integration of collaborations.”
Van Vliet said she is eager to connect with students who are interested in research, and hopes more students will engage in the opportunities the University has to offer.
“Research and innovation is taking some of the ideas you might have in a classroom or from your life experience, putting them into practice, and getting them out into the world,” Van Vliet said.
As the scientific co-founder of Artificial Axon Labs, which works to 3-dimensional print artificial neurons, Van Vliet also has entrepreneurship experience. She emphasized the importance of student contributions to start-up companies and the ability for companies that spawn from on-campus research to positively impact the world.
“Entrepreneurship is the early, high risk stage of taking an idea and turning it into a product or a service. It’s part of what universities in the U.S. do so well, which is get those ideas out of the lab, in part through start-up companies,” Van Vliet said. “Hopefully I can bring some of what I’ve learned about turning those ideas into impact [to Cornell].”
Though Van Vliet said it’s too early for her to set definite goals for her time at Cornell, she already has ideas about making research funding more accessible and addressing existing challenges.
“I want to make it as easy as possible for the faculty who lead research groups to compete for funding that makes it possible for them to test their ideas,” Van Vliet said. “Then, we’ll have wider conversations about what the current needs and challenges are.”
Van Vliet will split her time between the University’s main campus in Ithaca, Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Tech. Outside of work, she’s looking forward to walking around the campuses, learning and meeting new people.
“I really like exploring campuses, especially libraries and museums,” Van Vliet said. “What I hope is that, as I’m walking around, I’ll meet people in the green, I’ll meet people in the hallway. To me, this is really the start of walking into a candy store.”