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Andrew Read named senior vice president for research

Read to lead Penn State to the next level of research excellence, after serving in an interim capacity for nine months
28 March 2024
Andrew Read

Andrew Read, the former director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and a faculty member in the departments of biology and entomology, has been selected to serve as Penn State’s senior vice president for research, following nine months as the interim senior vice president for research. Read’s position will be effective April 1.

“As a previous institute director and faculty member, Dr. Read understands the opportunities for Penn State to expand its leadership in many research areas, as well as the challenges that our researchers face," said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi. "This deep knowledge, along with the enthusiasm with which he approached his interim role, underscore Dr. Read’s distinctive ability to lead Penn State to the next level of research excellence. A thriving interdisciplinary research enterprise is imperative to Penn State’s future, and I am delighted that Dr. Read will continue the important work he has undertaken in his interim role to help support and guide the institution in the coming years.”

As a member of the President’s Council, Read will continue to serve as the principal academic and administrative officer for the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research, which advances, facilitates and manages the full breadth of Penn State’s research activities across the institution. Penn State is ranked among the nation’s top 30 public research universities, with research expenditures surpassing $1 billion in each of the past three years.  

Read succeeds Lora Weiss. During Weiss’ four years as senior vice president for research, research expenditures topped the $1 billion mark and increased to more than $1.24 billion in FY23. Weiss spent six months on assignment to the U.S. Department of Commerce to stand up the CHIPS Research and Development Office for the U.S. government and is currently on assignment in Washington, D.C.

“Across all sectors, the problems we must solve as a global society are increasingly complex,” Read said. “Penn State is a leader in tackling some of these critical issues. For example, our researchers are working to eliminate health disparities for people living in rural areas, to identify new materials for semiconductors that more efficiently power our devices, and to use artificial intelligence to glean new insights from massive amounts of pre-existing data. It’s an exciting time to be doing research at the confluence of breakthroughs in these and other areas, and I am honored to support Penn State’s faculty, staff and students as they advance humanity’s collective knowledge.”  

In addition, he said, “Now that Penn State’s leaders have reserved funding specifically for research to invest in areas that really matter, I am looking forward to building on that stable foundation to help grow the research enterprise.”

Bendapudi noted that in his interim role, Read has already made significant strides toward better supporting Penn State’s researchers by launching the Research Support Transformation Project (RSTP). RSTP will reduce unnecessary administrative burdens and improve access to the tools and resources needed by faculty and staff members to conduct research that helps to solve critical problems affecting society and our world.  

In addition to overseeing research activity across Penn State’s campuses, Read will lead efforts to expand Penn State's innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem, which supports researchers and students to translate the technologies they develop at the University to the marketplace.  For example, he has been working to connect faculty members with resources at the Penn State Research Foundation, with a goal of facilitating the creation of valuable products and services for the public but also of potentially creating revenue for the University.  

“As a land-grant university, Penn State is charged with serving the citizens of the commonwealth and beyond. In addition to our instructional and research missions, this means engaging in collaborative activities with the private sector to generate and disseminate knowledge that is valuable to society,” Read said. “Penn State research has immense commercialization potential, and I am looking forward to working with the research community, including support staff, to brainstorm and implement new strategies that support our land-grant mission and drive economic development.”  

Prior to accepting the role of interim senior vice president for research in 2023, Read served as the director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences from 2019-2023. During that time, his forward-thinking, dynamic leadership helped to facilitate significant investments of external funding to Penn State and to spur the creation of several corporate partnerships to advance technologies to market. In addition, about a quarter of Huck’s portfolio of 110 faculty co-hires were made during his time as director.  

Read explained that he views the interdisciplinary institutes as a unique "force multiplier," or factor that significantly increases the effectiveness of Penn State’s research enterprise.  

“As a previous institute director, I know firsthand the impact that the institutes have in bringing together scientists to solve much bigger problems than any of them can do alone,” he said, noting that as senior vice president for research, he is looking forward to supporting the institutes to reach the next level of research excellence.

As a faculty member, Read’s research in evolutionary microbiology, particularly the evolution of antimicrobial drug resistance, vaccine escape and pathogen virulence, is focused on mitigating pathogen evolution that harms human well-being. In addition to being highly regarded as a thought leader by colleagues in his field, he is often called upon by national media to provide his expert point of view on topics ranging from antibiotic resistance to infectious disease.

Read has taught ecology, evolution, microbiology and statistics, and has authored more than 250 peer-reviewed publications, 30 book chapters and four edited volumes. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, the Royal Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  

Originally from New Zealand, Read earned a doctoral degree in evolutionary biology at the University of Oxford, followed by fellowships at Oxford University and the University of Edinburgh, where he became chair of Natural History. In 2007, he joined the faculty of the departments of biology and entomology at Penn State.

Troy Ott will continue to serve as interim director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences until a permanent director is appointed following a national search that will be initiated early summer.