New research vice chancellor will focus on operations


The new vice chancellor for research infrastructure introduced himself to Senate Research Committee members on Sept. 27, explaining his role and upcoming initiatives.

Robert Cunningham, who most recently worked as the associate director of cyber assurance at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, started his new role on Sept. 1.

Cunningham told committee members that one of his first tasks is to collaborate with the Pittsburgh Quantum Institute, developing a strategic plan and facilitating the use of equipment between Pitt and its other collaborators.

Cunningham will focus on operations, financial stability and opportunities for growth for Pitt’s research infrastructure. He said he views his role as “mostly a service job,” designed to help faculty work more efficiently.

“The goal of my office is to be able to help make the great faculty and researchers that are at Pitt able to do their job with as little friction as possible as easily as possible,” Cunningham said. “And some of the work will be in sort of setting up policies in a way that will make hard things to do today become easier tomorrow.”

Additionally, Cunningham said he will work to improve interdisciplinary collaboration and research.

Interdisciplinary collaboration, Cunningham said, is key to helping faculty become more efficient.

“If we could just get multiple fantastic faculty working together and pulling on the same side of the rope, we can get a whole lot more done together than we might individually be able to do so,” Cunningham said.

Penny Morel, a co-chair for the research committee, asked Cunningham if he plans to find ways to avoid the purchase of duplicate research equipment.

Cunningham said this will be something he will look into as part of his position, and so far, he’s gathered faculty with similar needs and discussed their priorities. This way, he can determine the most efficient way to assign equipment, he said.

Responding to a question from David Salcido, former Senate vice president and a research assistant professor in emergency medicine, Cunningham said work is already underway to create a survey that gathers what projects faculty are working on.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.


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