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Russell Boyd on research success

'Don't be afraid to think big'

- June 16, 2011

Professor Russell Boyd. (Danny Abriel Photo)
Professor Russell Boyd. (Danny Abriel Photo)

Russell Boyd, associate vice president, research at Dalhousie is leaving the position in July after five years. On Dalhousie University Research Day, Dr. Boyd reflected with Dal News on his time as AVP.

Q. Having been Associate Vice President, Research for the last five years, you saw Dalhousie University Research Day start three years ago and grow to where it is now. What are your thoughts on the event? Has it been successful?

A. I think the event has become better each year. One of our goals has been to get our researchers to think in terms of building strong teams that can compete for major funding opportunities. We have had considerable success already and I anticipate that we will have more reasons to celebrate in the next few years.

Q. What does bringing the research community together from the various faculties and experience levels, mean for individual researchers and Dalhousie?

A. We have tried to impress upon our researchers that mentoring and internal peer review are important prerequisites for success. Most units did not have mentoring and peer-review processes in place in the past, but several have introduced new procedures and others are planning to do so in the near future. These initiatives will lead to better outcomes for individual researchers and for teams of researchers. The inclusion of a mock peer-review session as part of our annual research days has proven to be very popular.

Q. When you became AVP, Research, what challenges did the university face and how have things progressed to today? What are the challenges today, five years later?

A. Several major new programs were introduced soon after I became an AVP. One was the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) program. With the arrival of Martha Crago as VPR in 2008, landing a CERC became a top priority. A very strong team was assembled and Dalhousie was awarded one of the 19 CERCs. We look forward to the arrival of Doug Wallace as the CERC in Ocean Science and Technology. Another example is the NSEREC CREATE program.  We have been awarded four of the first 58 grants, which is a remarkable success story for Canada's 26th largest university.

Q. As a professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry before taking on the AVP duties, what prompted you to take on the new role?

A. I served as Chair of Chemistry for 13 years during which time I had a wonderful opportunity to try to build a stronger university. After one year of being out of administration, I felt that I was missing an important component of my role within Dalhousie. Thus, when the opportunity to serve as an AVP on a 50 per cent basis arose, I was delighted to once again contribute beyond what I could do as an individual professor. It has been a wonderful five years. As an AVP, I have been able to contribute to our success in many different endeavors, while maintaining a strong research group, contributing to teaching chemistry, and serving in many professional capacities at the national and international levels.

Q. What are some of the opportunities Dalhousie has and will have in the coming years in terms of research? Is Dalhousie a major player on the national and international scales?

A. Dalhousie researchers bring in about $130 million per annum in research funding. I expect this figure to reach $200 million in about 2020. Yes, we are a major player on the national scene and our international reputation is growing.

Q. What's next for you?

A. In July I will begin a six-month administrative leave, followed by a six-month sabbatical leave, which I will use to pursue my research career in the field of computational chemistry. I will continue to work with my graduate students, to collaborate with leaders in my field, and to spend time in some of the leading centres in the world for computational chemistry.

Q. Do you have any advice for the research community in pursuing their work?

A. Don't be afraid to think big and try to compete with the best. Make sure you understand the nature of the competition before writing an application, be attentive to details and get involved in all aspects of peer review.

SEE RELATED STORY: Doing the research for your research grant


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