Conversation With The Dean
Celebrating And Investing In Research At SMU
James E. Quick, associate vice president for
research and dean of graduate studies, who
joined SMU in 2007, has long participated in
the enterprise of creating new knowledge.
A scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey
for 26 years, he brings a global view and experience
in creating and leading large and significant
research projects: environmental studies
to guide Everglades restoration; an earthquake risk assessment of
Cyprus; geologic mapping for the Kingdom of Morocco; and monitoring
the 169 active volcanoes in the United States.
He is experienced in
attracting grants and funds from federal and state agencies, the
United Nations and various international sources.
Quick, who holds a Ph.D. in geology from California Institute of Technology,
has visited five continents to conduct research on the deep
magmatic plumbing systems beneath volcanoes.
He currently advises
the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands on development
of renewable energy.
Quick spent the past year becoming familiar with SMUís broad range
of research activities as well as its funding needs to support those
activities. He shares his goals and thoughts with SMU Research.
Q. How does SMU convince alumni and donors that research
pertains to them?
A. The evidence is all around us. Research has been fundamental to
creating the world we live in now. Absent achievements in science and
engineering, we would be living much as we did in medieval Europe.We
all benefit from extraordinary advances that have contributed directly
to our quality and length of life: automobiles, airplanes, penicillin and
modern medicine, electricity, computers, plastics and air conditioning.
As a nation, we have been immeasurably fortunate that the United
States has led the world in research since World War II, creating so
many of the innovations that constitute the foundation of our prosperity
and security. Silicon Valley is a clear example of the contribution research
innovation can make to national and local economies.
Now focus on the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and imagine a future in
which thriving research at SMU contributes directly to solutions of local
problems, such as issues in urban planning, rapid transit and water
availability, and to national problems such as energy sustainability and immigration. As a top-flight research university, SMU will be contributing
to the local economy through partnerships with the private
sector and tech transfer of its research discoveries to stimulate development
of new industries.
SMU will be competing with the highest
ranked universities for the best undergraduate and graduate students,
many of whom will settle in North Texas. In short, imagine a communityuniversity
partnership that sparks the next Silicon Valley right here
in the Metroplex.
Q.What are your goals for Research and Graduate Studies at SMU?
A. My overarching goal is to set SMU squarely on a path that leads to
increasing stature as a research university. Looking to the future,
I envision SMU as a source of influential scholarship that addresses
the major problems facing our society, with a prestigious faculty
holding numerous awards from leading professional societies and recognized
by increasing memberships in the national academies. I envision
a vigorous research enterprise that attracts the best young faculty
and offers highly regarded Ph.D. programs that produce graduates
whom the nationís elite universities covet as faculty. I envision an SMU
that celebrates and invests in research and graduate education as
essential components of the top-tier university it has become.
Q. How does research support teaching?
A. Research informs a faculty memberís teaching, and faculty should
constantly seek new knowledge so they can provide the most up-todate
and accurate information to their students. Many fields, such as
computer science and biology, are evolving so fast that a faculty
member not engaged in research is teaching material that becomes
progressively out of date.
Our research must tackle big problems and engage our students in
their solution. No leading research university is without a vigorous
graduate program, and graduate education is part of the overall educational
experience that the modern American university is expected to
provide. In addition to performing much of the research, graduate
students directly contribute to the education of undergraduates as instructors,
mentors and role models. As we grow research at SMU, I
hope that we successfully reach out to undergraduates, capture their
imaginations and draw them into excitement of discovery through direct participation in research.