Dear colleagues,

With a much-deserved winter break around the corner, I want to thank you for your remarkable resolve and thoughtful work throughout this challenging year. Our research community showed creativity and persistence, even when the pandemic temporarily shut down research. Spurred by rapid funding from the OVPRI and the Wright Center, many of our faculty members pivoted to address the pandemic from different yet interwoven perspectives like the economy, education, social welfare and health, both mental and physical.

As part of One VCU Research, VCU and VCU Health systems are working to make a more concerted effort to communicate our prominence in research to the public, locally and beyond. For example, collaboration with the Office of Government Relations led to a virtual panel discussion this fall featuring VCU faculty members who provided an overview of their COVID-related research to our policy leaders and elected officials. We hope to hold similar events in the future to spread awareness of the breadth of our research. 

Your excellent productivity and efforts contributed to a new institutional record of sponsored funding, $335 million, in FY20, as well as our continued rising national prominence. This research effort was led by many faculty members across our two campuses and I shared our most prominent research highlights in my previous communication.

As I shared with you this summer, I remain dedicated to supporting research that enhances diversity, equity and inclusion within VCU’s research community. Volunteers with a postdoc diversity advisory council have met several times after a listening session was held for postdocs in August. This March, the Division of Research Development will host a panel on “Research and Grant Writing Through a DEI Lens,” with Aashir Nasim, Ph.D., vice president for inclusive excellence, Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., professor of health psychology, and Maghboeba Mosavel, Ph.D., associate professor of health behavior and policy. They will discuss efforts that can affect diversity, equity and inclusion in research, such as practices for recruiting study participants, recruiting trainees or engaging partners. Register here for the virtual Zoom session. We are also spearheading the submission of several federal grants to recruit and retain diverse research faculty members and trainees for VCU.

Overall, our research effort aims to enrich the human experience and advance human health and well-being through exceptionally creative, collaborative and community-engaged research.  As we seek to expand our research effort and presence, you will see updates to the OVPRI website in the coming months to inform you of activities in the OVPRI and our research community. I encourage you to visit the website to spend a few minutes answering the survey on the site’s recent redesign. We value your feedback as critical to improving your user experience.

Finally, as we look to the new year, I remain grateful for all your contributions and efforts, and wish you a safe and relaxing holiday season. 

P. Srirama Rao, Ph.D.
Vice President for Research and Innovation