PULLMAN – Howard Grimes, who has headed the Graduate School at WSU since July 2002, will add the duties of vice president of research on Feb. 1.

The change, announced by President Elson S. Floyd and Provost and Executive Vice President Robert Bates, coincides with the university’s efforts to elevate the importance of research and graduate education. Bates said the move will also allow James Petersen, who has served as vice provost for research since July 2002, to return to a faculty role in the College of Engineering and Architecture.

“By elevating the head of our research effort to the vice presidential level, WSU is making a strong statement about our goal of raising our research profile. Jim Petersen has done an excellent job and we are confident that Howard Grimes is the right person to build on that momentum,” Bates said.

Bates said Grimes will bring an important perspective to President Floyd’s leadership team, that of an active researcher and scientist. Combining the roles of dean of the graduate school and vice president for research is a common structure at leading research institutions, he said.

Grimes, who joined the WSU faculty in 1989, is also a professor in molecular plant sciences and in the School of Molecular Biosciences. His research on enzymes involved in plant metabolism and nutrient transport is also leading to new treatment strategies for inflammation-related diseases in humans.

Grimes is a member of the training faculty for an interdisciplinary program in protein chemistry funded by the National Institutes of Health and maintains an active, funded, and collaborative research program at WSU Pullman. He earned his master’s degree in plant pathology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and his doctoral degree in botany from North Carolina State University.

“I look forward to serving the university in this new role. I have worked closely over the years with Jim Petersen, and I admire what he has accomplished,” Grimes said. “I know that President Floyd is committed to making WSU one of the nation’s leading research institutions, and I am eager to help make that happen. We have made significant progress in our graduate programs and research and we will be working to take both to even higher levels as well as expanding our collaborative efforts to increase our external impact.”

Since Petersen became vice provost, WSU has seen steady growth in its research efforts. Ranked in the elite class of Research Universities-Very High Research Activity by the Carnegie Foundation, the university has total research awards and appropriations in excess of $200 million per year.

“I have enjoyed my years as vice provost, but I look forward to moving back into a role which will enable me to take advantage of my skills and experiences while also allowing me to interact more with students,” Petersen said.

Before becoming vice provost, Petersen was the Battelle Distinguished Professor of Bioprocessing in the Department of Chemical Engineering, the director of the NSF/IGERT Center for Multiphase Environmental Research and the associate dean for research in the College of Engineering and Architecture. A 1976 graduate of Montana State University, Petersen came to WSU after earning his doctorate in chemical engineering from Iowa State in 1979.