Penn State names Sharkey vice president for research

Justin McDaniel
April 04, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State President Eric J. Barron announced today (April 4) that he will ask the Board of Trustees to approve the appointment of Neil Sharkey as Penn State’s vice president for research at the board’s May meeting. Sharkey has been serving as vice president for research in an interim capacity since August 2013.

The selection of Sharkey comes after a national search that yielded 98 candidates. The search committee was chaired by Douglas R. Cavener, the Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science.

Reporting directly to the president, Sharkey will serve as the principal academic and administrative officer for the Office of Research, which advances, facilitates and manages Penn State’s research efforts University-wide. Penn State is ranked among the nation’s top public research universities, with research expenditures exceeding $800 million in each of the last five years.  The University’s research expenditures totaled $801 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year, including $510 million in broad-based funding from the federal government. 

“Penn State has a longstanding tradition as a cutting-edge, world-class research University, and Neil has done a remarkable job of advancing Penn State’s standing as a leading research institution by exploring new ways for Penn State to make a difference both here in Pennsylvania and across the globe,” said Barron. “Under Neil’s leadership, Penn State is leveraging its combined research and intellectual resources to bring innovative ideas and discoveries to market, thus driving job creation and economic growth.”

Sharkey has been instrumental in the development of the Invent Penn State initiative since its launch in January 2015. Invent Penn State is a Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success by connecting researchers with the people who can help bring their discoveries to the marketplace. As part of Penn State’s $30 million investment in the initiative, seed grant funding has been provided to start entrepreneurship center programs in State College and six Commonwealth campus communities: Abington, Erie, New Kensington, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre.

Evidence of Invent Penn State’s early impacts can be seen in the University’s technology transfer operations, which saw increases in the last two years in the numbers of licenses executed and startup companies formed based on Penn State’s intellectual property. In 2015, Penn State was issued 55 U.S. patents, executed 30 licenses and options, formed 10 startup companies and received 117 invention disclosures, generating $2.5 million in revenue for the University.

“How lucky am I to interact regularly with some of the planet’s brightest minds and most accomplished scientists? Helping to advance their work for the last two and a half years as the interim vice president for research has been an absolute honor and the pinnacle of my career,” Sharkey said. “I am humbled by the responsibility now entrusted to me on a more permanent basis and feel incredibly fortunate to be working alongside such an illustrious group of faculty, staff and students.

“As one the world’s top research institutions we have much to be proud of, and make no mistake, I boast of our achievements at every opportunity, but we can do and will do even more. I look forward to working with President Barron, Provost Nick Jones and Penn’s State’s entire leadership team as we enact our new strategic plan and development campaign to unleash the full potential of this great land-grant institution.”

The Office of the Vice President for Research has an operating budget of $52.7 million, overseeing a research enterprise that includes a broad range of units across the University at all campuses.

Penn State is home to six major interdisciplinary research institutes, including the Materials Research Institute, Institutes of Energy and the Environment, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Social Science Research Institute, Institute for CyberScience and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities. The University also boasts two defense-related research units: the Applied Research Laboratory and the Electro-Optics Center.

Before serving as interim vice president for research, Sharkey was associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Health and Human Development, where he also holds the title of professor of kinesiology. Prior to that appointment, Sharkey served as director of research in the Department of Kinesiology from 2004 to 2007. He also served as acting director of the Center for Locomotion Studies in the Department of Kinesiology from 2002 to 2004. He joined Penn State’s kinesiology faculty in 1997.

Sharkey holds a bachelor of science degree in physiology and a doctoral degree in comparative pathology, both from the University of California, Davis. His own research is aimed at advancing orthopedic medicine through improved understanding, better diagnosis and more efficacious surgical procedures. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and delivered many professional presentations pertaining to orthopedic medicine, skeletal tissue mechanics and musculoskeletal biomechanics.

He is a member of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State, and he maintains professional associations with the American Society of Biomechanics, the Orthopaedic Research Society and the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

  • Neil Sharkey

    Neil Sharkey has been selected as Penn State's vice president for research, pending approval of the Board of Trustees at its May meeting.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 21, 2017