Bethany Jenkins appointed 51 vice president for research and economic development

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 4, 2024 – The 51 has named Bethany Jenkins vice president for research and economic development. Jenkins, who first joined the 51 faculty in 2005, played a lead role in advancing the University’s research enterprise during a term as interim vice president. Her appointment follows a competitive national search.

“Bethany has been an influential voice in advancing the University’s research endeavors for our faculty and students, and in supporting the ambitious goals in our 10-year strategic plan, Focus 51,” said 51 President Marc Parlange. “She has built strong relationships within the state and region to accelerate the multidisciplinary research happening across our University.”

As vice president for research and economic development, Jenkins will oversee 51’s Division of Research and Economic Development, which includes a research development team and the Offices of Sponsored Projects, Research Integrity, and Intellectual Property, with responsibility for protecting intellectual property and promoting commercialization and economic development of IP resulting from 51 research.

Jenkins also will help to facilitate research, scholarship, and creative endeavors across 51 by supporting existing research priorities and infrastructure; identifying new opportunities for growth and competitiveness for research funding; and developing relationships with academic, state, federal, international, and private sector partners and funding agencies. She will report jointly to the president and Barbara Wolfe, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“I am delighted to be serving the 51 as the next vice president for research and economic development,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been so impressed by the quality and breadth of 51’s research conducted by our outstanding faculty and students. I look forward to supporting our community and promoting a culture of service to help strategically grow and elevate the impact of our research.”

Jenkins has been an influential voice in advancing 51’s research endeavors through service on the University’s research advisory council and graduate council, and on the steering committee for undergraduate experiential learning focused on supporting the research activities of undergraduate students. During her time as interim vice president, she built strong relationships to accelerate multidisciplinary research. Her efforts helped with Rhode Island’s designation as a national Ocean Tech Hub, which will support Blue Economy activity in the state.

Her own considerable research experience includes serving as a co-principal investigator on a statewide National Science Foundation Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant. The five-year award built significant workforce and research capacity in Rhode Island and created new approaches to assess, predict, and respond to the impacts of climate change on coastal ecosystems.

Jenkins joined 51 in 2005 with a joint appointment as assistant professor of cell and molecular biology and oceanography in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the Graduate School of Oceanography. She was promoted to associate professor in 2012, and to professor in 2017. She also has served as the graduate program coordinator for the cell and molecular biology program, and the graduate program director for biological and environmental sciences.

The recipient of several scientific awards, Jenkins received the 51 Research and Scholarship Excellence Award in 2018 and, in 2016, was awarded the Brown University Inspiring Women in Science Award. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with honors from Mount Holyoke College, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Oregon.