Melinda Cotten has been appointed director of the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR), Rice’s resource for helping faculty, staff and students develop and submit research and training proposals to external sponsors. In fiscal year 2011, sponsored research at Rice totaled more than $115 million.
Cotten comes to Rice from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where she had been executive director of the Office of Sponsored Programs since March 2008. Prior to MD Anderson, Cotten served in several administrative roles at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, most recently as director of grants and contracts management.
“Having previously worked at other academic institutions, I was very interested in getting back to academia,” said Cotten, who cited Rice’s reputation as a factor in her career decision. “I truly enjoy the academic environment and interacting with faculty and students. Just as Rice has a goal to become the best place to work in Houston, my desire for the first year in office is for OSR to become the best place to work at Rice. I have always believed that happy employees make happy customers (in our case that means faculty, students and other central offices like Research Cost Accounting), so in the spirit of healthy competition, it’s on!”
“The Rice community will benefit greatly from Melinda’s experience, commitment to excellence and deep knowledge of the Texas Medical Center,” said Vice Provost for Research Vicki Colvin in an announcement of Cotten’s appointment.
Cotten said the primary purpose of OSR is to facilitate the campus researchers in obtaining extramural funding in a service-oriented environment. “To that end, we will be working closely with Dr. Colvin to implement an electronic system (ERA) to automate the proposal development process and finally do away with the paper application and routing process. I have previously implemented two ERA systems across large institutions, so I am very pleased and excited to employ those same skill sets, as well as avoid the learned pitfalls, to Rice in a collaborative and thoughtful way.”
Nila Bhakuni, director of the Office of Technology Transfer, had been serving as interim director of OSR. Colvin noted Bhakuni’s “heroic efforts” and said, “It is never easy to have two jobs, and she managed it with calmness and professionalism.”