Farnam Jahanian to become CMU’s vice president for research
Farnam Jahanian has been selected as Carnegie Mellon’s newest vice president for research. As vice president for research, Jahanian will oversee all of the university’s research endeavors, including government relations and technology transfer.
For the past three years, Jahanian has served as the assistant director for the computer and information science and engineering directorate at the National Science Foundation, where he oversees a research budget of over $850 million. Jahanian also has hands-on experience with technology transfer. In 2000, he founded Arbor Networks to reduce denial-of-service attacks. Since then, the company has grown into a leading provider of network security, which, according to its website, protects 70 percent of Internet traffic globally.
“We are excited to have Dr. Jahanian join us,” said Jim Garrett, a co-chair of the vice-president-for-research search advisory committee, and the dean of the College of Engineering. “As vice president for research, he will represent, promote, and help to increase the research activities at Carnegie Mellon.”
Garrett explained that Jahanian will seek to help create major research initiatives spanning the university. This initiative is similar to the role that Gary Fedder, Howard M. Wilkoff professor of electrical and computer engineering, currently holds as associate dean for research in the College of Engineering.
Fedder perceived early on the importance of additive manufacturing, better known as 3-D printing, and recognized that Carnegie Mellon had a number of key researchers across the college doing fundamental research in the field. Fedder played a key role in establishing the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Youngstown, Ohio, of which Carnegie Mellon is a member.
“Gary saw an opportunity for Carnegie Mellon engineering researchers and was proactive in organizing and linking our researchers with that opportunity,” Garrett said. “As our new vice president for research, Dr. Jahanian will connect researchers across the university with national and international research opportunities.”
Carnegie Mellon is not the first university to recognize the benefits of a high-ranking research official. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) currently has a vice president for research; Harvard University has a vice provost of research; and Princeton University has a dean of research. The mission statements for these offices often include the promotion of interdisciplinary work and advocacy on behalf of the university’s researchers.
Dan Siewiorek, Buhl University professor of electrical and computer engineering and computer science, has known Jahanian for over 20 years and believes Jahanian will address unmet needs within Carnegie Mellon. In an interview, Siewiorek noted that Carnegie Mellon has lagged behind some peer institutions in raising funds for large research endeavors.
For example, in the field of interdisciplinary energy research, Carnegie Mellon’s Scott Institute has raised roughly $50 million while MIT’s Energy Initiative has raised more than $500 million. “That kind of thing takes high-level coordination,” Sieworiek said. “People lower in the hierarchy are focused on funding students and smaller projects.”
Sieworiek explained that while working for the National Science Foundation, Jahanian orchestrated joint projects between the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. “That showed his ability to bring together groups in Washington,” Sieworiek said. Given that Carnegie Mellon has many health-related technologies, the question according to Siewiorek is “how can we [Carnegie Mellon] parlay that into something bigger?”
In addition to his governmental and entrepreneurial activity, Jahanian is currently the Edward S. Davidson collegiate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan; he has been on leave since 2011 to serve at the National Science Foundation.
Carnegie Mellon's last vice president for research, Rick McCullough left the position on September 27, 2012 to become Harvard University's vice provost of research.