UI to hire 20 faculty for newest “cluster hires”

BY LUKE VOELZ | JULY 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials announced approval Thursday for additional research positions in Obesity and in Genetics Initiatives, part of the university’s cluster-hiring initiative.

Each program will acquire 10 faculty members, a total of 20, at estimated salaries of $60,000 to $100,000 per year. These positions will spread throughout various UI colleges to contribute to broad areas of research in their respective programs, UIleaders said.

The new programs mark the fourth round of cluster-hiring grant approvals since the fall of 2010, adding this month’s initiatives to water sustainability, digital public humanities, and aging clusters.

Genetics Initiative Co-Chairman Jeffrey Murray said his cluster’s research will include personal genetics, which maps DNA to determine disease susceptibility and medicine resistance.

“One of the things we hope to do is draw new research in this area to help make Iowa the leader in applying personalized medicine,” he said.

The UI Office of the Provost designed fund-matching largely to help departments interested in a cluster’s area of research, said Tom Rice, the UI associate provost for Faculty.

“We’re not investing in areas we don’t have a lot of strength in,” Rice said. “Most of these [cluster] hirings probably would be areas colleges would have invested in, anyway.”

Colleges will expand these areas of study by collaborating with other areas. For instance, Murray said possible ethics problems in personal genetics — such as employers discriminating against employees who are likely to inherit a certain disease — require aid from the UI College of Law.

The law school would join the Colleges of Medicine, Public Health, Engineering, Nursing and Liberal Arts & Sciences in research contributions.

“We’re just getting off the ground,” said Allyn Mark, the Obesity Initiative co-chairman. “We see this [cluster research] as an ongoing process.”

Mark said economic research through the Tippie College of Business will help the medical school’s studies in obesity.

“The business [faculty] are interested in the economic consequences of obesity,” he said. “Both the cost in health care from illnesses related to obesity and economic factors that may contribute to poor lifestyles promoting obesity.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said all cluster-hiring funding will come through a reallocation of budget resources instead of raising additional funds.

For each faculty member an area hires, the Provost’s Office will allocate $100,000 toward the salary of an additional new position. This fund-matching will extend through the acquisition of all 10 cluster faculty, a process Murray estimates will take up to three years.

“It won’t happen immediately,” he said. “But we’re trying to hire and place as many people as quick as possible. The idea is to hire people who will take advantage of existing genetics infrastructure.”

UI officials said they will conduct a nationwide search to fill the positions.

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