She means business Dr. Carmel Ruffolo is serious about boosting research by strengthening ties to the private sector 1 Marquette’s goal of doubling research funding in the next five years — announced at Dr. Michael R. Lovell’s Presidential Address in early 2015 — would be a pipe dream without a sound strategy and a talented team to support the work of faculty. Dr. Carmel Ruffolo is the newest member of that team. As associate vice president in the Office of Research and Innovation, headed by Dr. Jeanne Hossenlopp, she’s the first person in Marquette history charged with focusing on growing corporate research engagement and increasing research commercialization, or technology transfer, from faculty research programs.
Her role flows naturally from her experience leading academic research labs in microbiology and, more recently, excelling in a joint leadership position at UW–Milwaukee and UW– Parkside that made her a recognizable presence on regional development issues, water technology and corporate partnerships. The following interview excerpts cover five key issues relating to her work. On the changing researchfunding landscape: The reality of the world right now is that federal funding for research is not increasing. The days of solely relying on the federal government for research dollars are gone. The smart universities recognize that … So we have to be diverse in how we obtain research dollars. That means the corporate engagement piece, and also the tech transfer piece, that can grow our research funding and yield the benefits that come with that growth.
On better understanding the areas she’s helping Marquette target: Corporate-sponsored research involves our students, faculty or staff working on research projects with corporations, not just within this region but nationwide. Tech transfer involves looking at the diverse innovative work we have on campus and protecting that intellectual property by applying for patents or copyrights, etc. … When we have that patent, there are a number of options, including licensing it, which a lot of times we like to do. That may or may not involve a company. So tech transfer doesn’t have to involve a corporation, but it often does. On the benefits of increased corporate engagement: It’s about more than money for research. It’s about building trust and strengthening relationships. It’s about getting experience for our students. The more
relationships we have with companies around the nation, the more opportunities our students have to go work for these companies and do internships and co-ops. On addressing challenges involved in pursuing the university’s goal: As we move forward, we really need to be aware that faculty are not just researchers. They’re teachers and mentors. They have so many roles they play. So we want to make sure they have strategies and resources to address the challenges they face.
On Dr. Lovell’s leadership on this front: Based on his experience in Pittsburgh, he came to Milwaukee with the understanding that university research is changing and, to really make an impact, corporate engagement is vital … He’s very experienced in collaborating with businesses of all sizes. In fact, he’s been recognized as a national leader in bringing corporations and universities together.
Interview by STEPHEN FILMANOWICZ