Troy Runge, former chair of the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, assumed the role of CALS associate dean for research on April 1. Runge serves as the chief research officer charged with advancing and growing the college’s $166 million research portfolio. He oversees the Research Division, Agricultural Research Stations, the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station and represents Wisconsin in the North Central Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors. 

In this Q&A, Runge reflects on his first couple of months in the position and describes his vision for the college’s research efforts and opportunities. 

What does the CALS Research Division do? What is the scope of your role? 

The CALS Research Division facilitates research within the college, which is currently at $166 million annually. This includes extramural research support including grant submission, contract negotiation and research compliance working closely with UW’s Research and Sponsored Programs. The Research Division is home to the Wisconsin Agriculture Experiment Station and handles the administration of federal formula funds. Additionally, the research division is home to the statewide network of Agricultural Research Stations, so I get to work with talented people at the twelve stations. 

My role is to help the staff in the Research Division do their work. So far, this has included taking on a wide range of roles – all centered on the goal of supporting researchers and promoting the research capabilities that our college provides to industry and funders. 

What have you been up to since taking the role? 

I have been trying to do more listening than talking to understand where the opportunities are to remove bottlenecks for researchers, as well as determine the best way the college can provide support, especially in grant development. I am especially keen on developing the capacity for CALS to allow research teams to go after large multi-disciplinary grants.   

How are things going so far? 

I am still teaching and running a research lab this semester, so it has been a bit busier than I was expecting, but a lot of fun. CALS is so broad in its research portfolio that it is both incredibly interesting but also complex from a business and compliance perspective.   

What is your vision for CALS research? 

My vision for CALS research centers around making it easier for the amazing people in our college to do research, and for the equally amazing research administration staff to support the business and compliance side. We will always have administrative tasks that we will need to complete, but I am hoping to find ways to improve how we do things. Additionally, I am hoping to build capacity within CALS in grant development to help with larger grants, while also promoting the capabilities of our researchers to industry and funding agencies. 

How can people in the college support your efforts? 

Ideas for research administration improvements are always welcome. I would also like to mention that we have a campus-led initiative in the RAMP (Research Administration Management Portal) rollout coming up very soon (June 26) as part of the Administrative Transformation Program. I am hoping all involved with research will see this page for additional information to become familiar with the new process. Additionally, if you have a grant submission due around that time, please be sure to provide as much lead-time as possible.