Alan Snyder named new vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies

Alan J. Snyder, the former interim vice dean for research and graduate studies at the Penn State College of Medicine, has been named Lehigh’s new vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies.

He will serve as the university’s chief research officer, with responsibility for developing and expanding the culture and environment for research, scholarship and creative work. As vice president, Snyder will advise the president and provost on research and graduate and postdoctoral student policies, and work with the senior leadership on strategic planning and research initiatives. He will also provide support and direction for Lehigh’s graduate programs, graduate fellowships, graduate recruiting, and funding of graduate students.

Snyder, who was chosen after a national search, will begin at Lehigh on Aug. 2.

“We are delighted that Alan will be joining the Lehigh community,” said President Alice P. Gast. “He is an accomplished researcher, internationally recognized for his work in the development of artificial hearts and circulatory support systems, and he brings a strong collaborative approach and experience leading diverse groups of researchers that will allow him to enhance research and graduate studies at Lehigh.”

Snyder said he was drawn to Lehigh for several reasons.

“Lehigh is well-positioned to tackle the real-world challenges outlined in its strategic plan,” he said. “Lehigh’s intent to address compelling global problems, and to work as an integrated part of the local community, provides tangible purpose and relevance.”

A “high degree of collegial regard across disciplines”

Snyder said he was also impressed by the sense of a cohesive learning community that includes faculty, students and staff.

“I see at Lehigh a high degree of collegial regard across disciplines,” he said. “A university that recognizes the relevance of every discipline and enables people of differing backgrounds to inform and enlighten each other can do exceptional, consequential work.”

Snyder will succeed Bruce Koel, professor of chemistry, who served as the interim vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies for nearly three years. Gast expressed appreciation for Koel’s accomplishments.

“We are extremely grateful for Bruce’s dedicated and selfless leadership,” Gast said. “He has greatly advanced the research culture, infrastructure and competitive success at Lehigh during the time he served in the interim role.”

During that period, Koel oversaw an office that doubled the annual investment in faculty research grants, doubled the amount of funds awarded in university graduate fellowships, initiated a Faculty Innovation Grants program to provide seed funding for new projects, created two new web sites to highlight research accomplishments, established the biennial academic symposium, expanded graduate student life activities, added research staffing, and worked with the office of advancement to help develop research support for the recently announced $10-million gift to establish the Smith Funds for Research and Innovation in Science and Engineering.

A “clear understanding” of Lehigh’s scholarly community

Edward Shapiro, professor of school psychology and director of the Center for Promoting Research to Practice at Lehigh, chaired the search committee and said the committee was impressed with Snyder’s thoughtful, engaging and collaborative style.

“Alan showed an immediate understanding of the unique opportunity that Lehigh presents as an institution with incredibly strong faculty, strong values and commitment to research,” he said.  “He also showed a clear understanding of the importance of valuing and engaging the entire scholarly community at Lehigh, from engineering and business, to the natural sciences, to the social sciences, to education, and to the humanities.”

At the Penn State College of Medicine, Snyder also served as interim associate vice president for health sciences research, as professor of surgery and bioengineering, and as associate dean for technology development. His work with the Penn State artificial heart program gave him extensive experience in medical device design and development, including three rounds of transfer of Penn State technologies to commercial developers as well as involvement in product development efforts.

That experience, along with a background in patent law, allowed Snyder to help the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine develop technologies that have lives beyond the laboratory.

Spanning the theoretical and practical in a wealth of collaborations

Snyder’s research career has focused mainly on the development, design and testing of mechanical circulatory support systems for patients suffering heart failure. His work has spanned the theoretical consideration of homeostatic mechanisms and the highly practical aspects of design, development and clinical evaluation. In addition to collaborating with surgeons, cardiologists, engineers, nurses, materials scientists and others, Snyder has worked closely with businesses, regulators and National Institute of Health program managers.

For his research accomplishments, he has been recognized as a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Snyder completed his undergraduate and graduate work at Penn State, earning a B.S. in engineering science and a Ph.D. in bioengineering.

Gast also thanked the search committee for its diligent work, which began last October. In addition to Shapiro, the members of the committee are:

• Helen Chan, department chair of materials science and engineering
• Kathy Iovine, associate professor of molecular biology
• Stephen Lee-Urban, graduate student in computer science and engineering
• Barbara Malt, professor of psychology
• Arup SenGupta, P.C. Rossin Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
• Michael Stavola, Sherman Fairchild Professor of Physics and associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Arts and Sciences
• Bruce Taggart, vice provost for Library and Technology Services
• Todd Watkins, Arthur F. Searing Professor of Economics