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Vice President for Research Milan Mrksich to step down

Nationally renowned chemist will return to full-time research after helping grow sponsored funding to $925 million annually
Milan Mrksich
Sponsored funding grew from $798 million to $925 million annually during Milan Mrksich’s tenure. Photo by Eileen Molony

Vice President for Research Milan Mrksich has decided to step down from the position to focus full time on his research at Northwestern University, Provost Kathleen Hagerty announced. The University will announce plans for a search for his successor soon.

Mrksich, a nationally known, award-winning chemist, has led the Office for Research (OR) since 2019 and plans to align his official departure date to support a smooth transition.   

“During his four years leading the Office for Research, Milan has played a pivotal role in elevating Northwestern’s research enterprise,” President Michael H. Schill said. “His dedicated service to the University’s research mission has accelerated our ability to create new knowledge and make groundbreaking discoveries for the benefit of society.”

Sponsored funding grew from $798 million to $925 million annually during Mrksich’s tenure. He also oversaw the 2022 launch of the Querrey InQbation Lab — an on-campus technology accelerator that supports faculty seeking to turn their research discoveries into start-up ventures. And Mrksich co-led a multi-university team to successfully win the new Chicago biohub, sponsored by a $250 million investment from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

"Research is at the core of Northwestern's brand, and it has been extremely rewarding to grow our research enterprise, to elevate our reputation and, most importantly, to increase the societal impact of our work," Mrksich said. "The numbers are impressive, though most impressive as a proxy for what really matters: our transformative research that drives fields forward and improves lives to create a better world."

Mrksich joined Northwestern in 2011 and has held numerous leadership positions in three colleges at the University. He has led the development and implementation of University-wide strategic plans that support high-impact research initiatives. These include fundraising and promotion to strengthen the 35 University-wide research institutes and centers that bring together faculty from multiple disciplines to serve as catalysts for transformative discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.  

As a senior leader, Mrksich also pioneered new relationships with partner institutions and was instrumental in securing governmental support for Northwestern’s research mission. He was a key part of the University leadership team that navigated the COVID-19 pandemic; in particular, he developed guidance to quickly transition most research activities off campus during the pandemic’s early days and designed a comprehensive plan to bring researchers back to campus when circumstances allowed.

“Milan is an accomplished researcher in his own right whose influence stretched well beyond the borders of our campuses,” Hagerty said. “From the recent establishment of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Chicago to the incredible growth in funding for Northwestern’s critical research efforts, Milan’s contributions will be an important part of our University for years to come. We congratulate Milan on his accomplishments and thank him for his service.”

Mrksich also led several administrative changes, including creating teams and offices to better incorporate analytics and training in OR operations and to ensure compliance with new federal regulations on research security and data sharing. He also created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office within OR and increased outreach to the Evanston and Chicago communities, designing internshipsapprenticeships and job shadowing opportunities for Evanston Township High School and City Colleges of Chicago students considering careers in the sciences.

"I reflect on my tenure with great pride for the work our team has done in advancing Northwestern's research enterprise and, because of that, advancing the institution's standing among the very best research universities," Mrksich said. "It has been my privilege to collaborate with outstanding colleagues across OR and beyond, and I am thankful for the fantastic contributions of our faculty, staff and students whose success in research and translation represents the core mission of our office. I also thank our trustees, whose engagement and insights have helped us sharpen Northwestern’s research strategy and excellence.”

Mrksich has appointments in the departments of biomedical engineering, chemistry and cell and developmental biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, McCormick School of Engineering and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He is the founding director of the Center for Synthetic Biology at Northwestern and a leader in developing surface chemistries for a range of applications in the life sciences.

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