Mark Sytsma hired by the Office of Research and Strategic Planning

After 17 years with Portland State, Mark Sytsma was recently hired as the associate vice president in the Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships (ORSP).

After 17 years with Portland State, Mark Sytsma was recently hired as the associate vice president in the Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships (ORSP).

According to John Fink, the vice president of the ORSP, the main function that the office serves is to help “faculty members find and manage grant money that allows them and their students to engage in research and other creative activities.”

Fink said that the grants it receives often come from large federal agencies like the National Science Foundation or the U.S. Department of Transportation. One of the most important things that the ORSP does is prioritize which research projects receive money among many important projects.

This is where Sytsma’s job comes into play. Sytsma is responsible for coordinating this research aspect of the office. When a faculty member or student makes a request for research funding, Sytsma is responsible for making sure that all of the correct forms are filled out and that the faculty are in compliance with all of the regulations that go along with requesting funds, Sytsma said.

“John Fink brought me on board to help with compliance issues,” Sytsma said. “[These are] the daily nuts and bolts that keep the

operation running.”

Sytsma started at PSU doing research in the department of environmental sciences. His research centered around lakes, water quality and invasive species. After participating in research for a number of years, he eventually became the chair for the entire department. In the past few years, before accepting his current position, Sytsma was the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Before coming to PSU, Sytsma received his undergraduate degree from Iowa State University, his masters from the University of Washington and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis.

Sytsma said that to find candidates for the position, the ORSP formed a search committee of research faculty and staff. Fink interviewed the final three candidates and Sytsma was then offered the job in late December. He started on Jan. 24.

Another aspect of Sytsma’s job is promoting interdisciplinary work by coordinating faculty expertise, he said. If a faculty member is looking for an expert in another field to help with a research project, Sytsma is the one who helps to connect and promote their research together.

Additionally, the ORSP develops and manages relationships between PSU and other organizations around the world,

Fink said.

One such partnership that PSU has locally is with Portland General Electric. Through programs like the Prius Plug-In Hybrid program and the recent Electric Vehicle Roadmap symposium at the Convention Center, PSU and PGE hope to make Portland a center for the coming wave of electric vehicles, Fink said.

According to Sytsma, one of the main challenges the ORSP constantly faces is the problem of being under-staffed. He said the challenge is figuring out how to most efficiently use staff time and resources to get

everything done. n

Sytsma said that the ORSP continually strives to make the “behind-the-scenes” aspect of research invisible to the actual researchers themselves. The idea is that the researchers can focus on the research itself while the ORSP worries about getting them the funding to further their work.

“Most [researchers] aren’t particularly interested in the administrative aspect of research,” Sytsma said. “They don’t want to deal with that.”

The fact that there is never quite enough money to fund all of the “many worthy projects and programs” is the other main challenge that the ORSP must constantly overcome, according to Fink.

At a time when many universities have departments lacking in resources, finding funds to accomplish all of the many goals in the ORSP is no small task, Fink said.

Last year the ORSP brought in around

$60 million in grants and funding for research, according to Fink. Sytsma said that this year the goal is to reach $100 million; ORSP is already halfway there, at $50 million in funding. ?