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New vice president for research named

Veteran health sciences researcher and translational research innovator Erin Rothwell will be the University of Utah’s new vice president for research.

University of Utah President Taylor Randall announced Rothwell’s appointment this week at the Board of Trustees meeting.

“Dr. Rothwell has a proven record of fostering an atmosphere of creativity and discovery that advances knowledge with integrity,” said Randall. “Her support for campus-wide research operations, deep understanding of national research funding infrastructure and processes, and commitment to building the U’s academic and research enterprise will serve the university well as we continue to strive toward becoming a top 10 public institution.”

Rothwell will start her new working role immediately. She has been serving as interim vice president for research since January 2022.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to help lead the university forward in thoughtful and creative ways,” Rothwell said. “With our roadmap to enhance the student pipeline from undergraduate to post-doctoral opportunities; improve engagement with state and federal partners; strengthen infrastructure and efficiencies; and incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion through the research enterprise with competitive research funding and recruiting talented research faculty, we will live up to our institution’s promise to transform the community and society around us.”

Rothwell received her bachelor’s degree in recreation therapy and master’s degree in park and recreation management from the University of South Alabama. Rothwell first joined the U in 2004 as a doctoral student, completing her postdoctoral work at the College of Nursing, while studying clinical trials and public health. In 2010, Rothwell received a competitive fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she studied bioethics. In 2018, Rothwell was hired as associate vice president for research integrity and compliance, overseeing 10 compliance offices on campus.

In 2021, Rothwell became the associate vice president for research (AVPR) to help lead the U’s grant support pipeline, research education expansion, and environmental health and safety offices. In that time, the university’s research portfolio has grown substantially each year and reached a record high of over $600 million in research funding and 2,400 grants in FY21. In addition to research growth, the U was invited into the Association of American Universities, a prestigious group that limits memberships to institutes at the forefront of scientific discovery.

Over the past year, Rothwell has drafted a five-year strategic plan with the input of nearly 300 faculty members. She has implemented two new research hubs—the One U Data Science Hub and the One U Energy Hub—to bridge the university’s main campus and health sciences campuses and increase collaborative projects across the university. The Office of the Vice President for Research will launch three to four new hubs in the next year.

This past January, Rothwell also created a new unit for Large Infrastructure Research Teams (LIFT) to boost the university’s success rate for large center grant proposals. Finally, as interim vice president for research, Rothwell has overseen accreditation efforts, streamlined research IT infrastructure, developed the Innovative Finance for Translational Research Program and created the One U Research Council.

Rothwell’s research focus is on the ethical, social and legal implications of genetic and technological advancements on individuals and families, specifically within newborn screening, prenatal testing and biobanking. She is the contact principal investigator for the NIH Utah Center in Excellence for Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) for Research in Genetics (1RM1HG009037), and principal investigator on an R01 titled: Comparing Game Facilitated Interactivity to Genetic Counseling for Prenatal Screening Education (R01 HG011921). Rothwell also has extensive expertise in informed consent and research ethics. She has published a new qualitative methodology for focus groups called “Deliberative Discussion Focus Groups,” which is based on over 70 focus groups and 500 participants across five NIH grants.

Rothwell replaces Andrew Weyrich, who left the U in October 2021 after five years as vice president for research to lead the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.