When I entered Pomona College, I was surprised that there were questions my professors could not answer. During my elementary and high school education, all questions posed had answers, and we learned to express those answers clearly on our exams. But in college I was exposed to the frontier of knowledge, where some questions did not yet have answers. As an undergraduate student, I spent two summers working alongside faculty and other students discovering answers to questions at the frontier. It so excited me that I pursued a doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I learned to pose my own questions as well as answer some of them. This is why I have relished an academic career, and especially my past 14 years at Illinois Institute of Technology.
As the vice provost for research since October 2018, I have the privilege to work with faculty, students, and staff at Illinois Tech to build the foundation for the future growth of our research enterprise. Our university has recently reorganized and strengthened our administrative support for research. We are building new research collaborations across disciplinary boundaries, which makes it possible for us to solve important problems that are outside the scope of a single discipline. We are partnering with outside organizations to leverage our expertise for greater impact. We are exploring new resources to support our scholarly activity. We are engaged with our undergraduate students in planning to involve them more in research—at their request!
“Discover. Create. Solve.” is our university’s new tagline. This is what excites us about research at Illinois Tech. While we must learn from what has already been discovered, created, and solved, we are keen to jump in and discover, create, and solve for ourselves. It is our passion as faculty, and a passion that we are passing on to our students.
If you have not visited Illinois Tech lately, I hope you will do so to become familiar with the exciting research that we are doing. In the meantime, enjoy learning from these pages what some in the Illinois Tech family have been up to in research—from improving upon Amazon Alexa to ensuring water quality.
Fred J. Hickernell