Penn State physicist to be next UI vice chancellor for research

Penn State physicist to be next UI vice chancellor for research

URBANA — A physicist and administrator from Pennsylvania State University will be the next vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus, pending approval from UI trustees.

The campus announced today that Peter Schiffer, professor of physics and associate vice president for research and director of strategic initiatives at Penn State, will take over the job on Aug. 16.

Because of other administrative turnover, the position has been held on an interim basis for four years — including by current UI President-designate Bob Easter — since former vice chancellor Charles "Chip" Zukoski stepped down to return to the faculty in 2008.

In a release, Chancellor Phyllis Wise said Schiffer will fill a key role on the university's leadership team.

"He's an accomplished scientist with the administrative experience that will allow him to lead our efforts to increase our broad research and discovery mission, and to enhance funding from the federal government, foundations and corporations," Wise said.

Schiffer earned his doctorate in physics at Stanford University in 1993 and his bachelor's degree at Yale University in 1988. He has been a professor of physics at Penn State since July 2003, and assumed his current administrative post in April 2007.

He received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 1997 and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 1998. He was named a fellow of the American Physical Society in 2004, won the Faculty Scholar Medal in the Physical Sciences at Penn State in 2006, and also received a teaching excellence award in 2008.

Schiffer's wife, Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, will join the UI faculty in the Department of Chemistry. She is the Eberly Professor of Biotechnology at Penn State and earned her doctorate in chemistry at Stanford University in 1993.

Ravishankar Iyer, professor of electrical and computer engineering, was interim vice chancellor for research for more than three years before announcing in October that he would return to his faculty work. He had agreed to do it temporarily, but the search was put off when former Provost Linda Katehi left for the University of California and former Chancellor Richard Herman resigned during the UI admissions scandal.

Easter took over as interim on Jan. 1, but then was named president-designate in March when President Michael Hogan announced his resignation. Most recently Debasish Dutta, dean of the UI Graduate College, has served as interim vice chancellor.