Princeton's first dean for research leaves lasting legacy

Friday, Jun 28, 2013

A. J. Stewart Smith, Class of 1909 Professor of Physics, becomes vice president of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory on July 1, 2013.A. J. Stewart Smith, the Class of 1909 Professor of Physics, served as Princeton's first dean for research from 2006 to 2013. On July 1 he begins a newly created position as vice president for the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).

In his tenure as dean, Smith built the Office of the Dean for Research from its inception into a fully functioning department of professionals dedicated to making the University research activities run smoothly.

These activities included stewardship of research funding, technology licensing, compliance and integrity, care of research animals, and building relationships with corporations and foundations.

Smith brought these areas together under his leadership and where necessary created entirely new departments to meet the needs of Princeton faculty members engaged in research.

"As Princeton’s first senior research officer, Stew Smith gave his boundless energy to supporting sponsored research," said Karla Ewalt, associate dean for research. "His legacy is a research administration ethos of service and partnership in support of faculty, students, and staff who carry out the research mission of the University."  

Smith's experience as a Princeton professor, she added, gave him firsthand knowledge of the needs of faculty members when it came to research.

Smith also understood the value of supporting the patenting and licensing of Princeton discoveries, allowing innovations with societal benefit to reach the marketplace, said John Ritter, director of the Office of Technology Licensing.

"As dean for research, Stew Smith contributed greatly to raising the visibility of Princeton's technology licensing activities," Ritter said. "He has a team-oriented approach and has been very supportive of efforts to make University discoveries available for development into new products and new industries."

Another area that Smith strengthened was relations with partners in industry and at foundations. Recognizing that the business community has many common interests with the university in terms of developing new technologies and training personnel, Smith brought the University's Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR) unit under the auspices of the Office of the Dean for Research and recruited David Langiulli to provide new leadership to the department.

“Stew understood from the beginning of his term as dean for research that relationships between corporations, foundations, and the university are not fundamentally philanthropic in nature," said Langiulli, director of CFR. "Corporations seek value. Foundations advance social change. Under Stew’s leadership, CFR at Princeton is now well positioned to bridge the gap between these institutions and the university for mutual benefit."

Smith also revitalized the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA), which oversees the use of external research funding from the federal government and other sources.

"Stew provided the necessary resources to improve our training and outreach efforts," said Jeffrey Friedland, director of ORPA. "With his support, we started our monthly 'Coffee with ORPA' training series and we became better facilitators for research activities at Princeton, focused on providing assistance and guidance for our faculty members and research administrators."

Smith also created two new departments to put in place best practices in the areas of research integrity and the care of animals. The office of Research Integrity and Assurance (RIA), created in 2011, administers compliance with conflict-of-interest regulations and participation of human subjects and animals in research. Smith recruited Stuart Leland, who had directed animal research compliance at Merck and Co., to lead the new department.

"Stew's vision was to create an office that was adept at developing compliance policies that would provide a competitive advantage for Princeton over other institutions," Leland said. "He conceived of a department, RIA, that would be renowned for its well-run compliance efforts and that would be welcomed by faculty members as a valuable service. He searched wide and far to recruit compliance officers who have also had research experience."

Another area where Smith made an impact has been in the care of research animals, which are integral to the advancement of research that benefits the health of both humans and other animals. Smith identified senior laboratory animal medicine director and veterinarian Laura Conour to lead a revitalized Laboratory Animal Resources department.

"Stew Smith is the reason I decided to come to Princeton," Conour said. "He cares deeply about the University and the research that goes on in its labs. He has had an incredible commitment to making Princeton a model for responsible care of research animals."

Smith begins his new position as the University's liaison to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the Department of Energy on July 1. The transition is a natural one for Smith. As dean for research, he was responsible for overseeing the laboratory's operation and this new position strengthens his oversight role.

Stewart Prager, director of PPPL, said the laboratory welcomes the new role for Smith. "As dean for research, Stew Smith has provided oversight and guidance to PPPL that has enhanced the productivity of the lab immeasurably," Prager said. "The positive benefit of his remarkable activism on our operational and scientific functions has been amazing. We are elated to anticipate the even greater boosts we will gain from Stew's enhanced focus in his new position of vice president for PPPL."

Smith joined the University faculty in 1967, a year after earning his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton in 1966. He served as chair of the physics department from 1990 to 1998.

Smith is a leading researcher in high-energy particle physics and a nationally respected figure in science policy. He was appointed chair of the University Research Board in 2005 and a year later assumed the new role of dean for research, beginning a major restructuring of Princeton's research administration.

During his career, Smith has carried out a succession of major experiments in particle physics at U.S. national laboratories. Since 1995, he has served as scientific team leader of an international collaboration of 600 scientists from 10 countries involved in a project based at the Stanford Linear Accelerator. A fellow of the American Physical Society, Smith has been a member of the experiments committee for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, and he has served on boards for many other organizations, including Brookhaven National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council of Canada. In 2011, Smith was awarded the American Physical Society's W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics for his contributions to the field.