Randy Heflin has been appointed senior associate vice president for Research and Innovation, effective Jan. 7, 2022.

“Dr. Heflin’s scientific accomplishments, prior success as chief research officer for the College of Science, and deep understanding/appreciation of the wide range of research and creative activities represented at land-grant universities will enable him to provide the critical leadership needed at this pivotal moment in Virginia Tech’s history as we embark on our journey to become a top-100 global research university,” said Dan Sui, senior vice president and chief research and innovation officer at Virginia Tech. “Dr. Heflin is a fantastic leader who will bolster the university’s research enterprise by holistically supporting faculty in their research endeavors.” 

In December, Virginia Tech announced several organizational changes to further accelerate progress toward the university’s goal of being recognized as a top-100 global research university, including the promotion of Sui to senior vice president. 

Previously the associate dean for research and graduate studies for the College of Science, Heflin’s appointment further strengthens Virginia Tech’s position in growing its research enterprise. 

“It has been a great pleasure and honor to assist the faculty of the College of Science in the growth of their research programs,” said Heflin, who is also a professor of physics. “I'm excited to work with researchers across the university as we continue to expand Virginia Tech’s already impressive research portfolio by providing an unparalleled level of centralized engagement and support.”

Reporting to Sui, Heflin now serves as the point of contact for Virginia Tech’s associate deans for research and provides a strong connection to faculty and leadership in the colleges, while working to enhance the university’s research development program and research infrastructure. Working with faculty on research development efforts in collaboration with the Office of Strategic Research Alliances based in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area, Heflin will lead research facilities and infrastructure planning and more as Research and Innovation continues to expand and improve services to assist the Virginia Tech research community. 

Research and Innovation has launched numerous efforts to support faculty’s research development efforts, including a Research Development microsite within research.vt.edu to provide research faculty direct access to resources, training, funding opportunities, partners, and events and programs; and a Research Development Support series intended to help faculty in their journey to increase the scope and impact of their research, creativity, and innovation portfolio.

Heflin, who has a long-standing track record leading research development efforts, will further bolster the enterprise by serving as a central contact for principal investigators who lead significant sponsored research portfolios and those that are pursuing large grants; help organize cost-share on major proposals; and lead the organization and execution of red team reviews. Additionally, he will lead planning for shared research facilities, research capital planning, and strategic research allocations for the equipment trust fund.

Joining the Virginia Tech community in 1992, Heflin was promoted to his most recent role as associate dean for research in 2014. His primary responsibilities included support and promotion of the research activities of college faculty, postdoctoral associates, and students, fostering of interdisciplinary research teams, and assistance of junior faculty in the development of research proposals.

During his tenure in the College of Science, faculty increased external research awards by 120 percent, from $21.5 million in 2015 to $47.5 million in 2021. Heflin’s research development efforts include: the creation of a grants coordinator position to assist faculty in proposal preparation; establishment of proposal writing groups to assist faculty in improving proposal submissions; coordination of cost-sharing and institutional commitment packages on behalf of principal investigators; and leading red team reviews of key proposal submissions, including the $23 million National Science Foundation (NSF) GlycoMIP Materials Innovation Platform program led by Maren Roman. 

Heflin led the creation and oversaw implementation of two major college research investment funds: the Lay Nam Chang Dean's Discovery Fund and the Academy of Data Science Discovery Fund. He played a leading role in establishing research-specific strategic initiatives outlined in the college’s strategic plan. Together with his counterpart in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, Heflin co-developed and led the annual joint college NSF CAREER Award Workshop that was initially only available to science and engineering faculty, but expanded under his tenure, and now engages multi-disciplinary faculty members across the university. 

From 2012-19, Heflin led development and delivery of Virginia Tech’s bachelors of nanoscience interdisciplinary degree program and taught four courses within that program. Heflin has supervised twenty-one students in the completion of their doctoral degrees.

Also an affiliate professor of materials science and engineering, Heflin’s own research has been focused on self-assembled organic nanoscale optoelectronic materials and devices, including nonlinear optical materials and devices, optical fiber biosensors, and organic photovoltaics. He has published more than 160 articles, delivered 90 invited presentations, has been a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than 50 grants totaling approximately $12 million, holds three patents, and has co-edited two books, including the textbook "Introduction to Nanoscale Science and Technology." 

Heflin’s leadership roles extend to industry; he co-founded the company Virginia nanoTech and has served on the technical advisory boards of two other corporations. 

Since 2001, Heflin has served as an editorial board member of the International Journal of Nanoscience. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa (former president of the Virginia Tech chapter), American Physical Society, Materials Research Society, and Optical Society of America.

Heflin earned a bachelors in physics with high honors from the College of William and Mary and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania.

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