Tomorrow marks Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Matthew Mench’s last day on my cabinet. He’ll return to the Tickle College of Engineering as head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering. Matthew did not apply for the job permanently, but I am so grateful he agreed to step up last fall when I asked him to take on this position until a permanent vice chancellor was hired. He has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments in a short time and is quick to recognize the team effort behind them.
In just eight short months, Matthew worked closely with UT Research Park leadership to help align research commitments with university–private partnership space in Cherokee Farms; initiated a diversity action plan for the Office of Research and Engagement; helped lead the development of multiple government funding requests, resulting in a new multimillion-dollar Army Research program with Vanderbilt and continued hypersonics research funding for UT; worked with UTIA and the UT System to support and start up the new One Health initiative; developed the energy storage thrust that is now being further developed in the Oak Ridge Institute plan; and oversaw a transition plan for our new vice chancellor for research.
During the pandemic, Matthew has been especially integral by leading our testing plan task force. He also oversaw emergency operations planning for research operations, keeping campus labs safely and continually open at reduced levels of activity. The university has seen a significant increase in awarded funding and large-scale proposals during the pandemic. Fiscal year 2020 has seen an increase of approximately 20 percent in research awards for UT Knoxville, including UTIA and the UT Space Institute, from $208 million in FY 2019 to $250 million.
I’ve greatly appreciated Matthew’s leadership, especially during such an unexpected time. I know he has been and will continue to be immensely helpful to Deborah Crawford, whose first day as vice chancellor for research is August 1. I’d like to thank Dean Janis Terpenny for supporting Matthew’s willingness to serve the university in this capacity, and Kivanc Ekici for stepping up as interim department head of MABE the past eight months.