Research development

Research Development Manager | UDaily

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

K. Eric Wommack has been named Senior Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Delaware. Wommack, a professor of environmental microbiology, was previously associate dean and associate dean for research and graduate education at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Dr. Wommack is well known at UD and beyond for his excellence, drive, and commitment to collaboration,” said Kelvin Lee, acting vice president for research, scholarship, and innovation. “He will play a vital role in developing competitive research proposals across UD, as well as new partnerships and programs locally and globally. We are delighted to welcome Eric to the Research Office team.”

Wommack, who has always dreamed of becoming a scientist and helped advance the field of environmental microbiology, is excited to take on this new role.

“Research is very near and dear to my heart,” Wommack said. “If you think about it, the most unique thing a 1 research university does is produce experts, professors, thought leaders. Nowhere else does. Research is at the heart of this production — you cannot produce experts without research. It is so essential for society.

Among his responsibilities, Wommack will lead the research development team in advancing faculty collaborations and cutting-edge, high-level research initiatives, including the establishment of successful research center grants and programs in several academic disciplines. Her team also provides assistance to researchers in coordinating large-scale multidisciplinary proposals and offers educational workshops and other opportunities to build faculty research capacity.

Wommack said he wants to help professors be as competitive as possible in a competitive research environment and help make it easier to sponsor their research.

“The most wonderful thing you do as a faculty member, outside of teaching your students, is brainstorm big ideas, answer intriguing questions, and solve difficult problems,” said said Wommack. “You want to spend as much time as possible on this work and you need to articulate it in a compelling way that someone will want to sponsor it. I want to help IPs [principal investigators] articulate these impacts and help where I can to identify potential collaborators. »

As a microbial ecologist, Wommack is no stranger to interdisciplinary research. He’s also used to innovating in a field that’s only been around for about 50 years. Complementing his administrative role, he plans to continue his research into the planet’s viruses, which, as he said, “took him everywhere,” from hydrothermal vents on the high seas to chicken coops to the human gut, and many places in between – including agricultural soils, the stomachs of beef cattle and dairy cows, and soybeans with their nitrogen-fixing bacteria, to name a few.

Viruses are incredibly abundant around the world, he explained, and the process viruses use to infect bacteria has far-reaching consequences for how nutrients and energy move through ecosystems. DNA sequencing has shown that viruses contain an extraordinarily diverse array of genes, but their function and impact still remain largely a mystery.

“I know I was super excited to come to college years ago because universities are where new knowledge is discovered and created,” Wommack said. “And I think that excites a lot of students. You see these world-class labs and learned people who know things before anyone else. And I hope that’s what excites a lot of kids to come to UD.

Wommack received his Ph.D. in Marine Estuarine Environmental Science from the University of Maryland-College Park, a Masters in Physiology from the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland, and both a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Emory University.

He holds faculty positions throughout UD, in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute; the School of Marine Science and Policy in the College of Earth, Oceans and Environment; and the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Wommack’s appointment took effect on September 5.