From Vice President Stephen Hsu: Designing bolder new directions for MSU research (2/13/13)

Dear Colleague,

Even though I have been here since August, this still feels like a new job to me. So I wanted to take a moment to tell all of you that I have thoroughly enjoyed my first months here and I am grateful for the warm welcome everyone has given me. 

Recently, I have been discussing with MSU colleagues how our research enterprise will move forward under the Bolder by Design strategy outlined by President Lou Anna K. Simon. You can find information about the entire scope of that strategy here. (PDF)

As you know, President Simon’s charge to us all has been to think boldly about how we will thrive – not just survive – on the challenges of the future. The Bolder by Design imperative to “increase research opportunities,” is the one I am most concerned with right now, and I want to share some of my thoughts about it with you:

1. MSU must maintain its distinctive competencies in such areas as nuclear science, food safety and security, water quantity and quality, and plant science and bioeconomy-related products and processes, to name just a few. MSU can boast of having some of the world’s foremost experts in certain fields of research. We will certainly want to leverage our talent and track record into externally recognized “awesomeness” with the best support and facilities possible.

2. MSU must capitalize on the new opportunities inherent in bioinformatics and big data. These areas are increasingly important to cutting-edge research across many thriving disciplines. Fortunately, MSU has built competitive infrastructure to support the information processing demands of 21st century research, centered in such facilities as the Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research (iCER), the High Performance Computer Center (HPCC), and the Research Technology Support Facility (RTSF). 

Now we must move forward into a scholarly leadership position in using bioinformatics in new ways. We need to focus on harnessing the power of the human genome, as well as the predictive promise of data analytics. That need has clear implications for our research problem selection, interdisciplinary cooperation, and faculty hiring.

3. MSU must pursue new talent aggressively, in order to take our research reputation to the next level quickly. In light of the national budget situation and rapidly emerging international competition, the importance of extramural funding success to facilitate our investigations will continue to increase, likely reaching levels previously unfamiliar to many of us. At the same time, MSU also needs to increase its publications and citations. I believe that one useful approach to meeting these institutional challenges is the purposeful recruitment of strong, mid-career researchers – including some possibly undervalued in their current institutions – to provide leadership in targeted areas of priority research. (You may have heard me use the “Moneyball” baseball metaphor to characterize such an approach.)

I hope you share my enthusiasm for what the future offers, and that we can continue a dialogue about how best to pursue these opportunities. (Here are some recent presentations related to this topic.)

I cannot over-stress the gratitude I have for your interest, assistance, good will, and patience as we all do our part in making MSU “Bolder by Design” within the research domain.

Steve Hsu
Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies