June 12, 2008 — Thomas C. Skalak, professor and chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia, has been appointed vice president for research at U.Va.
Announcement of Skalak's appointment, which will be effective Aug. 1, was made today by U.Va. President John T. Casteen III.
Skalak succeeds Dr. R. Ariel Gomez, who is stepping down from the post that he has held since June 2003.
"Tom Skalak is a respected researcher, outstanding teacher and one of the finest examples of successful pan-University collaboration," said Casteen. "As the University's new vice president for research, he will be charged with establishing the University as a leading competitor in science and technology. I expect Tom to work closely with the deans of the schools of Medicine and Nursing, Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the College of Arts and Sciences — as well as all other schools — to differentiate the University from peer universities both nationally and globally.
"We are fortunate to a have a member of our own faculty take the lead as the University seeks to improve the impact of new University discoveries and knowledge on society."
The vice president for research at U.Va. plays a leading role in promoting a University research culture that supports innovation and leads to discoveries that will transform society. As part of this role, Skalak will lead the development and promotion of institutional research priorities and themes, assist faculty members to develop new research areas, encourage investment in research infrastructure, and help enable faculty members to pursue creative scholarship as individuals and in small groups, as well as in major center grants. Major new fundraising efforts will be initiated in support of these goals.
"Very few opportunities at universities hold the promise that would attract me away from what we are building in biomedical engineering at U.Va., but this role has the potential to be truly unique," Skalak said. "At this time in the history of U.Va., the group of people who created and are pushing ahead the University's vision perceive that its enduring excellence will rest on the ability to create new research interactions across the University. Important new activities, for example, are emerging at the interfaces of engineering and medicine, the arts and commerce, and science and humanities.
"U.Va. can become known as the global ideal in research-based education, and further can become known as the global ideal in linking research-based education to the professional community and to society. We will need to be daring to realize these dreams."
A recognized expert in microvascular structure and function, particularly angiogenesis and remodeling, computational modeling of disease, and biomechanics, Skalak has been a member of the U.Va. faculty since 1986. Skalak received his bachelor's degree from The Johns Hopkins University and his Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego.
"Tom Skalak is one of the great biomedical engineering chairs in the country, and I am now delighted to work with him in this important new role," said Dr. Arthur Garson Jr., executive vice president and provost. "Given the need for cross-University collaborative research, we sought someone with a proven track record at establishing collaborative programs and Tom has done exactly that in a number of areas. Tom will move science and research forward at the University — first by building the sciences and then by establishing new ways for art and science to interact."
The Skalak Laboratory at U.Va. focuses on understanding vascular adaptation to environmental conditions and in vascular diseases with the aim of developing new preventative technologies. Skalak has been a consultant to major device and pharmaceutical firms, as well as several start-up ventures, including Abbott Laboratories, Target Therapeutics and Cottler Technologies.
During more than 20 years at the University of Virginia, Skalak has been principal investigator responsible for more than $30 million in research grants. He is currently principal investigator of a $4.5 million grant from the Coulter Foundation to enhance biomedical technology transfer that links faculty in engineering, medicine and business, with the aim of delivering new methods and products to clinical use and commercialization.
In addition, he is leading the creation of the world's largest bioengineering network consortium. This National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation project, "Creating a Sustainable Network for Bioengineering and Translational Research," is designed to enhance innovation in bioengineering by creating a sustainable global network of university and corporate partners in more than 30 nations on six continents. He serves as a reviewer for NIH, NSF, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Science Foundation Ireland and more than 20 scientific journals.
Skalak became chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2001. Since his appointment, the department has added 12 new faculty, built and moved into a new facility and added an undergraduate program that has already become the second-largest in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. A second bioengineering building is on the U.Va. and Commonwealth priority list for capital expenditures.
Skalak was the youngest president of the national Biomedical Engineering Society (2000-01) and is a member of the society's board of directors. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and serves on several of that organization's committees, including as national development chair and fellows selection chair.