The Charger Blog

Guiding the University of New Haven to New Heights as a National Research Leader

Ronald Harichandran, the University’s vice provost for research, says he is excited to be part of an expanded vision for research at the University because he believes research transforms learning, emboldens teaching, and gives graduates a decided edge in the job market and in careers across countless industries.

November 7, 2019

By Jackie Hennessey, contributing writer

Image of Ronald Harichandran
Ronald Harichandran interacts with a student at a recent Tagliatela College of Engineering Senior Design Expo in which senior engineering majors showcase their research and projects they completed in collaboration with industry partners.

Often when people become university deans, they let go of research. Not Ron Harichandran, dean of the University of New Haven’s Tagliatela College of Engineering.

He believes in its transformative power and he’s shaped his academic career around it.

"I’ll always be involved in research," he says.

That’s true now more than ever as he guides the University toward an even more robust research profile nationally. Earlier this year, Dr. Harichadran, a widely published expert on structural engineering who has done research on earthquake, pavement, bridge, and fire engineering, was named the University’s first vice provost for research.

"When faculty members do research, they take new ideas and new technologies into the classroom."Ronald S. Harichandran

In addition to continuing to lead the Tagliatela College of Engineering, he is helping to create a new University-wide research paradigm.

He’s meeting with deans from each of the University’s colleges and schools and with key faculty researchers across all the academic disciplines to discuss their work, ideas, and their vision to move the University to the next level as a research institution.

"I think it’s important to understand that you can’t do everything," he says. "You have to pick certain areas to develop, have clusters of faculty working around select themes, and help those areas to develop and shine."

Gaining a national reputation

It’s the perfect time, he says, for the University to build upon its burgeoning national profile and the groundbreaking work being done in areas including forensic science, cybersecurity, criminal justice, chemistry, engineering, the health sciences, and molecular and cellular biology.

With the University, just this year, receiving a $4 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant – one of the largest federal grants in the University’s history – to create Connecticut’s first CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service program, and earning its first National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Award, a prestigious honor given to emerging researchers at leading universities, the University is garnering increased national attention.

Victor Piotrowski, Ph.D., lead director of the NSF’s CyberCorps®: Scholarship for Service (SFS) program, says the University’s standing as one of 21 in the country – and the only in Connecticut – designated by the National Security Agency (NSA) as the Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations made the University’s application to create an SFS program standout.

"It convinced our reviewers that the University of New Haven is deeply technical and interdisciplinary, with extensive opportunities for hands-on applications via labs and exercises," he says.

Dr. Harichandran says the University is uniquely positioned because its small class sizes allow graduate and undergraduate students to work closely with faculty members who have long had reputations as highly engaged research mentors.

"When faculty members do research, they take new ideas and new technologies into the classroom and that energizes their teaching," he says. "It’s extremely important that our graduates go out into their fields with the most current information."

‘Tremendous potential to grow as a research institution’

To do research that receives national attention, Dr. Harichandran says faculty members must work in an area relevant to society or that has national interest, and develop a groundbreaking idea.

"We challenge our faculty to leverage their unique ideas and to show how their research addresses a real need," he says. "That gets the attention of grant funders, which enables them to advance their experiments and supports collaboration with colleagues and students."

Established and new faculty across University need the time and support to be able to develop and pursue their groundbreaking ideas, Dr. Harichandran says.

"I think we have tremendous potential to grow as a research institution," he says. "The expectations of our new faculty are very high. They are attuned to research and have a real passion for it and, as an institution, we have to nurture that and do everything we can to invest in our faculty’s success."

"Pursuing research enables students to build the skills that are important to excel in the rapidly changing fields in which they will work."Ronald S. Harichandran

Doing research also gives students a decided edge entering the job market and in their careers.

"Research is the process of training students to think and analyze, set up key research questions, do an extensive literature review, focus their ideas, complete careful experimentation to find the answers to the research questions they posed, and, then, carry out all of the work," Dr. Harichandran says. "It takes self-discipline, focus, and creativity."

Dr. Piotrowski of the NSF says conducting research and publishing papers helps students build critical competencies, allows them to stay current – or ahead of emerging trends – and fosters lifelong learning skills.

"There are many required competencies for career readiness, which include critical thinking, problem solving, communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, and familiarity with digital technology," he says. "Pursuing research enables students to build the skills that are important to excel in the rapidly changing fields in which they will work."