Astronomer Daniel Jaffe Named Vice President for Research at UT Austin

Daniel Jaffe

Daniel Jaffe, newly appointed vice president for research at UT Austin.

AUSTIN, Texas — Professor of Astronomy Daniel Jaffe has been appointed vice president for research at The University of Texas at Austin. He will assume that position on Jan. 16, 2016.

President Gregory L. Fenves announced the appointment in a letter to campus

Jaffe has been a faculty member in UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences since 1986 and is the immediate past chair of the Department of Astronomy. He played a leading role in establishing the university’s partnership in the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile and served on the board of directors of the Gemini Observatory, twin telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile.

“Expanding our research capabilities and pursuing many opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration across the campus is a high priority,” said Fenves. “UT is poised to take a significant step forward in increasing the impact of the research by faculty, students and research scientists. Dan has the skills as a team builder, fundraiser and collaborator with research sponsors to take on these ambitious goals for our research mission.” 

Fenves and Jaffe aim to increase the amount and impact of basic and applied research conducted across disciplines and build new partnerships that break down the traditional barriers among academic disciplines.

"I want to find ways of collaboration that will create new knowledge and an excitement that will be self-renewing,” said Jaffe. "The most exciting opportunity right now is the Dell Medical School, which will enroll its first class of students next year. To reimagine and build a medical school from the ground up and conduct both basic and clinical research at a world-class university that has leading scholars from multiple academic fields is going to be a huge boon for Central Texas and health care in general."

The Office of the Vice President for Research supports research at all levels at the university. It helps to formulate national and state research policy; fosters ties to research sponsors and collaborators outside the university; promotes emerging research opportunities in nontraditional areas; ensures necessary infrastructure on campus; and fosters peer-reviewed competitions that support research.

Research expenditures at The University of Texas at Austin have averaged $618 million over the past four years.  Most of the funding comes from federal research agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.

As vice president for research, Jaffe will continue pursuing his own scholarship, which focuses on the formation of stars and planetary systems. He is principal investigator for a high-resolution near-infrared spectrometer at UT’s McDonald Observatory, as well as for a high-resolution spectrometer for the Giant Magellan Telescope.

Jaffe earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He was a research scientist at the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley before coming to UT Austin, where is currently the Jane and Roland Blumberg Centennial Professor in Astronomy. He has received a Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Natural Sciences.

Fenves appointed Jaffe to the position after reviewing a slate of candidates that had been presented by a campus-wide search committee. The committee was led by Jayathi Murthy, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Jaffe will replace Juan Sanchez, who announced earlier this year that he plans to step down after 16 years as vice president of research.