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Professor Souvaine to head research office as vice provost

Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 09:02


Coutesy Alonso Nichols / Tufts University

Diane Souvaine, a professor of computer science, was named the vice provost for research last semester to replace Peggy Newell, who departed Tufts for Harvard last november.

Professor of Computer Science Diane Souvaine entered this semester in a new position as the Vice Provost for Research after being appointed in November. Her appointment followed a two-month internal search to replace outgoing Vice Provost Peggy Newell, who left Tufts to become Harvard University’s first deputy provost in early November.

Souvaine’s appointment puts her at the head of what Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris called a crucial office for Tufts.

“At a research university, it’s a critically important role,” Harris, who headed the search committee that chose Souvaine, said. “The Office of the Vice Provost for Research is responsible for all the infrastructure around research as well as promoting research.”
Souvaine’s duties, which span all three of the university’s campuses, include overseeing funding for research and ensuring that university researchers comply with federal laws, she explained.

“It’s a position that broadly tries to enable the fabulous researchers that we have here at the university to pursue the kinds of research that they’d like to pursue, whether it’s disciplinary, interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, or translational,” she said.

Souvaine began teaching at Tufts in 1998 after serving as a faculty member at Rutgers University for 12 years. She became chair of the Department of Computer Science at Tufts in 2002.

She is currently serving a six-year term on the National Science Board (NSB), a body that governs the National Science Foundation and advises the President and Congress on science policy issues. President George W. Bush appointed her to the board in 2008 for her work in computational geometry, and she now sits on the NSB’s Executive Committee.

After deciding to search within the university for a new Vice Provost for Research, Harris convened a committee of faculty and administrators to assess several candidates.

He emphasized that the committee looked from within the university for a strong leader with extensive research experience.

“I want someone in that position who is connected to larger conversations outside of Tufts… who can help us find ways to get information about opportunities early and think about how we mobilize,” Harris said. “I want someone who’s forward thinking, who isn’t just happy with what we’re doing now, but says we can be better, we can do better, and I have an idea and a vision of how to get there.”

Souvaine said she aims to encourage and facilitate collaboration among the university’s researchers.

“I think the first goal is to try to remove any impediments that are preventing people from doing the terrific work that they want to do,” she said.

Souvaine will continue to play a key role in the ten-year strategic planning process, which launched last fall as a university-wide effort to map out the future of Tufts, Harris said.

“Moving forward as the vice provost for research, she’s a part of my senior team and so is involved in a lot of conversations we’re having here about how to prioritize and how to move forward,” Harris said.

Souvaine chaired the strategic plan’s working group on Modes of Research before her appointment as vice provost.

“It’s fascinating and fantastic to have this opportunity to look strategically at where the university’s going and where it can go,” she said.

Souvaine said she has spent the first weeks of her tenure visiting and talking with researchers on the Medford/Somerville, Boston and Grafton campuses.

“I’m learning more and more about the exciting projects that are going on here, whether they’re ones on a single campus or across campuses,” she said. “So really it’s a learning time for me. Once I know more, I’ll have more opportunity to look at potential new projects that people could be doing and ways in which the Office of the Vice Provost for Research can help enhance the ability for people to go and achieve these new goals.”

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