College of LAS « Illinois

Head of biochemistry named interim vice chancellor for research designate

Susan Martinis is expected to begin role on Oct. 16

Susan Martinis has been named interim vice chancellor for research at Illinois, pending approval by the Board of Trustees.
Susan Martinis has been named interim vice chancellor for research at Illinois, pending approval by the Board of Trustees.
Susan Martinis, head of the Department of Biochemistry, has been named interim vice chancellor for research designate. Her appointment will begin on Oct. 16, pending review and approval by the Board of Trustees.

“Professor Martinis has earned a reputation here at Illinois as a collaborative scholar and consultative leader who gets work done. These qualities make her an ideal fit for this role,” said Robert Jones, chancellor of U of I’s Urbana-Champaign campus, in an announcement on Friday.

The outgoing vice chancellor for research, Peter Schiffer, announced his departure in August.

Martinis, who holds the Stephen G. Sligar Professorship in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, has worked with partners all across campus. She also serves as interim director for biomedical science and engineering in the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. She is recognized as a groundbreaking researcher, a decorated teacher and one of the most respected academic administrators on the campus, Jones said.

Martinis joined the Department of Biochemistry at Illinois as an associate professor in 2005 and became a full professor in 2009. In addition to her service as head of biochemistry, she also served as an associate dean over biological, chemical, physical, and mathematical sciences in the College of LAS. She also served as head of the department of medical biochemistry for the Regional College of Medicine’s operation on the Urbana campus.

Martinis said that she is fortunate to have experienced different vantage points of the research environment on campus.

“Illinois is notable for its breadth of research expertise, and our deeply-rooted tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration is second to none,” she said.

“This is a large, decentralized University with a breath-taking research portfolio across the biomedical, basic, technological, social and behavioral sciences, engineering, and the humanities and the arts,” Martinis added. “It is important that diverse ideas and perspectives are heard, and I want to be thoughtful about how we partner with the academic colleges, the research institutes, and other units across campus to ensure that we support the entire range of research excellence at Illinois."

Martinis also has a strong research background herself. Her research into the mechanisms, evolution and biomedical applications of protein synthesis and RNA-protein interactions has been supported by the National Institutes for Health and the National Science Foundation and earned her recognition as a University Scholar.

She also has significant experience in the private sector, working to launch the lifesaving antibiotic Cubicin while at Cubist Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Merck in 2014). Martinis earned her doctoral degree in biochemistry at Illinois and trained at MIT as an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow.

“I want to thank Peter Schiffer for his outstanding service and leadership as vice chancellor at Illinois,” Jones said. “He leaves us with a research enterprise and infrastructure that is robust, resilient, sustainable and positioned for continued growth and excellence.”

Jones added: “Please join me in congratulating – and thanking – Professor Susan Martinis as she takes on this critical responsibility for us. I am confident that the research enterprise will not only continue to thrive, but also grow under her leadership.”

Dave Evensen

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