Ahmad Itani named associate vice president for research

His career studying and improving engineering of bridges now shifts to building connections to resources, opportunities, colleagues

Encouraging undergraduate research is one of many areas of focus for AVP Research Ahmad Itani, shown here with neuroscience major AnaLisa Honour at the 2019 Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Faculty member and student in front of research-project poster

Over his 25 years with the College of Engineering, including serving as chair of its Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering since 2013, Ahmad Itani's view of the University of Nevada, Reno's role and impact has expanded, and his appreciation for the interrelationship of teaching, research and service has deepened. In his new position as associate vice president for research in the University's Research & Innovation division, Itani is excited to more fully contribute to the broader landscape of the University and, as he says, to help faculty, staff and students reach their full potential.

Itani identifies a number of areas where he intends to have impact, including:

  • Encouraging the development of large and multidisciplinary projects,
  • Helping faculty make connections to colleagues and opportunities,
  • Further developing resources, infrastructure and all levels of student involvement to support research, creative and scholarly activities,
  • Taking down administrative barriers and encouraging transparency, while also fostering a culture that serves and protects research,
  • Improving the dissemination of information.

Ultimately, he says, it is about strengthening and sustaining a culture of excellence, and it begins with listening and a willingness to champion change.

"I'm talking to department chairs, talking to deans to understand what we have and what we need," said Itani, who started in the role July 1, 2019. "Our constituents need to know they have a stake in this. They need to be involved and have ownership. It's not ‘top down,' it's ‘bottom up.'"

Itani is quick to express appreciation to Ana de Bettencourt-Dias, who served in the associate vice president role since June 2015 and in February announced her decision to return to the College of Science to focus on her research and resume her teaching duties. He plans to continue with the initiatives and programs established through the AVPR office, while also listening to faculty and exploring opportunities to improve.

Itani is a highly regarded researcher with expertise in the seismic behavior of steel bridges. He is also a licensed professional engineer in Nevada and professional and structural engineer in California. He was named a University Foundation Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2017 and is a past recipient of the Richard Fountain Award presented by the American Iron and Steel Institute and the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials and the Roebling Award presented by the American Society of Civil Engineers, of which he is a Fellow member. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Among the resources and centers reporting to Itani in the associate vice president for research role are Undergraduate Research, the proposal development team and several core laboratories including the Nevada Center for Bioinformatics, Nevada Genomics Center and the Mick Hitchcock, PhD. Proteomics Center Proteomics. Itani is the Research & Innovation liaison to many committees and councils including the University's Research Council.

"Dr. Itani brings an impressive breadth of research, teaching and faculty leadership to this role," said Mridul Gautam, vice president for research and innovation. "I am confident our University community of faculty, staff and students will be well served by his commitment, energy and experience."

"We live in a fascinating world," Itani said. "We are seeing the fusing of the biological, physical and digital world; large grants and bigger research teams. Discovery is happening less within a discipline; it's happening on the fringes where disciplines overlap. But excellence in this multidisciplinary era starts with excellence within the disciplines."

"UNR is a great place, a great land-grant institution," Itani said. "Land-grant institutions change people lives. We give opportunity to faculty, staff and students, and the state and citizens we serve. I'm a product of UNR, and I'm here because I want to be here. I want to contribute to our success."

For more information about Research & Innovation at the University of Nevada, Reno visit unr.edu/research-innovation.

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