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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA’s Office for Research and Discovery granted control over Biosphere 2 research, gets new VP

The+setting+sun+shines+through+the+Biosphere+2.++The+structure%2C+resembling+a+greenhouse%2C+once+supported+a+materially-isolated+system+of+life%2C+including+an+ocean%2C+rainforest%2C+savanna%2C+and+more.
Alex McIntyre
The setting sun shines through the Biosphere 2. The structure, resembling a greenhouse, once supported a materially-isolated system of life, including an ocean, rainforest, savanna, and more.

The Office for Research and Discovery welcomed Joaquin Ruiz as the new vice president of innovation and strategy and claimed oversight of the research at the Biosphere 2 Campus, in order to make the university more competitive in the world of research.

Ruiz is the dean of the College of Science, executive dean at the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and is a professor of geosciences. His new position at the Office for Research and Discovery will promote creativity in research.

“Innovation is how you actually continue to be competitive in research,” Ruiz said. “That’s what I am going to be focusing on. It’s not going to be on the budget or the space, but really how you actually connect with various partners. Answering questions like ‘how do we actually create ecosystems within the University of Arizona that make us more competitive and move forward in research?'”

The whole purpose of the office is to address the research needs of the university. Particularly, the office identifies the faculty, funding and facilities that the university needs to conduct quality research.

Ruiz, whose position is fairly new to the UA, said that the university has always had an overall goal for innovation and new ideas, but it wasn’t until recently that there was a set position specific to success in innovation.

“You know, Stanford [University] has a culture of innovation embedded into their research and [the Massachusetts Institute for Technology] has a media lab, each place has their own way of dealing with innovation,” Ruiz said. “We really didn’t have a structured way of doing this, even though our faculty and administrators are incredibly innovative.”

While the UA is a top tier research university, for Ruiz, there are still ways the UA can improve innovation, like integrating the Biosphere 2 Campus to other areas of research like engineering and building closer ties to the community to create innovative programs.

Ruiz said he wants to cater to the professional needs of new UA graduates and said he thinks that can eventually help the city thrive. In order for students to stay in the Tucson, Ruiz said there must be ways to support the work that university graduates want to work on.

“Creating an environment where students can stay here and start their dreams here is one of the things that I’m really working on,” Ruiz said.

The Biosphere 2, which is under the direction of Ruiz, will also be a part of the Office for Research and Discovery.

Environmental research, an innovation hot bed once under the watch of the College of Science, will be more opportune for interdisciplinary research, according to Biosphere 2 deputy director John Adams.

“The hope is that this alignment will also allow for a larger university use across multiple departments,” Adams said. “They are hoping that this move will further facilitate those [interdisciplinary relationships].”

The Biosphere 2 is a university-owned research facility that focuses on the natural and man-made environments. The campus holds seven different ecosystems including a mature rain forest with over 90 different tree species, a swamp land, a tropical savanna and other environments, according to the Biosphere 2 website (http://biosphere2.org/research/our-mission).

Adams said he does not anticipate any immediate changes to the Biosphere campus, but he said that the university will be more competitive in grant applications because of the chance to collaborate with other colleges through the Office of Research and Discovery.

“If it’s a multi-college [grant] proposal that goes in, there’s nuances that come into play,” Adams said. “The hope will be that within the [Office for Research and Discovery] we can continue to make it easier for those kinds of [research] partnerships.”


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