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Tuteja and Wu to Serve in New Collaboration and Mentorship Roles

Posted Aug 7, 2023


The Office of the Vice President for Research has appointed two faculty members to part-time Research Faculty Fellow positions. Supported through Iowa State’s Strategic Plan success funding initiatives, these positions are intended to:

  • Build research capacity/infrastructure;
  • Help faculty gain competitive advantages in their pursuit of new funding and/or large grant opportunities, particularly in key areas of strength within the university; and
  • Support diversifying faculty members’ funding portfolios and/or growing their research enterprises.

Geetu Tuteja, associate professor and LAS Dean’s Professor in Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, was chosen to serve the Research Faculty Fellow position centered on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and related private foundations. Yue Wu, professor and Herbert L. Stiles Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, will serve the Research Faculty Fellow role focused on research opportunities with the Department of Defense (DoD) and allied industry partners.

Both faculty members will serve two years in their respective roles from August 1, 2023, through July 31, 2025. Each will work closely with VPR liaison, Surya Mallapragada, associate vice president for research.

Each faculty fellow will launch strategic learning communities focused on their respective funding priorities. This fall will feature workshops in these areas open to any interested faculty on campus. In the Spring semester, the second phase of the learning community will involve a smaller subset of interested faculty working closely with the faculty fellow, focused on helping faculty members improve and submit their proposals to these funding agencies. The research faculty fellows will develop resources to support the learning communities.

“We are delighted – and indeed feel fortunate – to have candidates as qualified as Doctors Tuteja and Wu serve in these new faculty fellow roles,” Mallapragada said. “Each brings to the table a track record of funding and research success with their respective federal agency and allied industry partners. Both enter their roles with clearly defined visions, and they have the team building and leadership experience, as well as the collaborative skills, to turn their respective visions into realities for other Iowa State faculty.”

Vice President for Research, Peter Dorhout, added: “Doctors Tuteja and Wu have unique insights into the needs and priorities of each lead agency and their allied industry segments. They also thoroughly understand our institutional strengths. Serving as research faculty fellows, their knowledge of how our strengths align with funding opportunities – combined with their mentorship skills – will prove invaluable in supporting our faculty in diversifying and growing their individual research portfolios as well as the portfolio of Iowa State Research as a whole.”

Research Faculty Fellow Geetu Tuteja

Tuteja joined the Iowa State faculty in 2015. She has a long track record of foundation and NIH funding success, starting with the A.P. Giannini Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, followed by an NIH K99/R00 pathway to independence award, both received during her postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University from 2010 through 2015.

In 2019, Tuteja became the first Pew Biomedical Scholar at Iowa State, after being selected internally the previous year to apply to the program. She has been PI or co-PI on multiple successful NIH grants. In addition, she is currently a standing member of the NIH Pregnancy and Neonatology study section, which has deepened her understanding and appreciation for the details that can significantly impact the review trajectory of a grant application.

Tuteja envisions placing a significant emphasis on grantsmanship in her work with faculty.

“It’s important to understand that obtaining a grant is not solely about having an exciting research project,” she said. “It requires a thorough understanding of the funding opportunity, clear and concise writing, and a logical flow of ideas. It also involves effective networking and building relationships with funding agencies.”

Tuteja also intends to focus on the often overlooked and underappreciated art of application resubmission.

“I have observed instances where faculty have become disheartened by their score or reviews and decide against resubmitting. So, I plan to dedicate sessions to analyzing specific grant reviews obtained by participating faculty and exploring the best ways to respond to reviewers in a resubmission,” she said.

Tuteja is also excited to channel her experiences in interdisciplinary research, leadership and team building into her new role as Research Faculty Fellow. In 2020, she was selected to participate in the Research Collaboration Catalysts program offered by the Iowa State OVPR. The thrust of her research is by its nature interdisciplinary, combining molecular biology, functional genomics, computational biology and reproductive biology. She has collaborated with several Iowa State colleagues across a range of disciplines and with researchers at other institutions, including the University of Kansas Medical Center and The University of Missouri-Columbia.

Tuteja has been a highly effective mentor for numerous graduate students and has successfully graduated two PhD students and two master’s degree students, including Majd Abdulghani, the first Rhodes Scholar from Saudi Arabia. She has served as an associate director of graduate education (DOGE) and is a member of the promotion and tenure committee for her department, among other leadership roles.

When working with students and faculty collaborators, Tuteja said, “I always try to provide detailed and honest feedback, which I think will prove effective in working with other faculty in my role as Research Faculty Fellow.”

Research Faculty Fellow Yue Wu

Wu joined Iowa State’s faculty in 2014 after five years as an assistant professor at Purdue University. He has successfully secured $2.3 million in DoD research grants for his group since arriving at Iowa State. Wu has worked with numerous industrial partners, including Intel, EPRI, DuPont, Mitsubishi Chemical (Kaiteki Institute), Kyocera AVX, and Rockwell Collins. In addition, SpaceX vice president, Charles Kuehmann, invited Wu and his team to participate in a June 2023 brainstorming meeting on onsite production of building materials for Mars bases using carbon dioxide and water, based on the group’s most recent patent.

Wu has substantial mentorship experience and expertise in fostering interdisciplinary research collaboration. He has shepherded Iowa State faculty in submitting applications for funding through the Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) program and to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In addition, as leading PI on DARPA and DoD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives (MURI), he has managed various administrative, budget and labor needs with Iowa State and partner institutions that include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Georgia Tech University, Purdue University, University of California Santa Barbara, Penn State University, Carnegie Melon University, Louisiana Tech University, University of Washington and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

The vision Wu has for the Research Faculty Fellow role is to help faculty: clearly understand the funding mechanism and strategy to apply for DoD grants; and strategically develop and strengthen the research profile and reputation to match DoD’s needs.

“Some agencies support research initiatives that focus solely on scientific curiosity, but DoD grants emphasize research that directly benefits the nation’s military and defense capabilities,” Wu said. “With DoD, it’s critical that faculty deliver on the promises of their proposals in order to build trust with program managers that leads to project renewals or future grants.”

Wu also intends to work with faculty to help foster more “out-of-the-box” thinking.

“Program managers’ hands are often tied because they can’t discuss anything that is classified,” he said. “DoD agencies are looking for disruptive capabilities that can be game-changers on the battlefields, so it’s up to us as researchers to generate those ideas that offer the greatest potential to deliver disruptive technologies and innovations.”

Wu added that he will help his Iowa State faculty colleagues understand that industrial partners are typically looking for different outcomes from their research partners.

“Those in industry are frequently looking for incremental improvements in processing, which can be rapidly tested and implemented,” he said. “This requires our faculty to have full understanding of private sector clients want in improvements. My plan is to work with OIPTT (Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer) to host meetings so our faculty can have protected conversations with private companies.”

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