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Sri Kurniawan appointed next Baskin Engineering Associate Dean for Research

Portrait of Sri Kurniawan

Sri Kurniawan, professor of Computational Media who serves many mentorship and leadership roles across UC Santa Cruz, has been appointed the Baskin School of Engineering’s next Associate Dean for Research. In this role, which begins July 1, 2024, Kurniawan will support the highly impactful research of faculty across the six engineering departments.

Kurniawan plans to use her connections with various campus communities and her experience with various funding agencies to enable further funding and collaboration opportunities for Baskin Engineering faculty. She also wants to enhance training and mentorship programs for junior faculty as they navigate the fast-paced R1 Research University environment. 

Kurniawan was a founding faculty member of both the Computational Media department at UCSC and the Professional Masters in Human-Computer Interaction program. She served as the Computational Media department chair for three years from 2019-2022 and is the department’s current graduate director. Her research centers on improving the lives of people with diverse special needs through assistive technology. She has 35 major funded research projects to date, and is the author or co-author of close to 200 publications.

Kurniawan succeeds Professor of Biomolecular Engineering Todd Lowe in this position, who served as the associate dean for research 2021 to 2024.

“Sri’s wealth of experience on campus and beyond will make her a great fit to help our faculty and researchers achieve their full potential,” said Alexander Wolf, Dean of the Baskin School of Engineering. “Her deeply impactful, collaborative research exemplifies what we do best here at Baskin Engineering, and I look forward to seeing her serve as a resource to her colleagues and to me. I have also been inspired by her dedication to mentorship, both to colleagues and to students, and know that this will help her be effective at elevating both the quality of our research and its impact on our scholarly communities and on the world.” 

Fostering grant success and collaboration

Navigating the world of extramural funding can be complex and confusing, whether that be federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) or National Institutes of Health (NIH), or non-governmental funders which include various foundations, industry and nonprofits. Different agencies have various requirements and best practices for their applications, making it sometimes difficult to know where to start.

Kurniawan plans to use her experience of serving on NSF panels and receiving funding from various government agencies, foundations, nonprofits, and more to provide guidance to those who need it. She also plans to advise those whose funding is subject to the Institutional Review Board’s (IRB) approval of their human subjects protocols to navigate the IRB application process, especially as she is currently serving as an IRB member.

“I am planning to either share my experience working with or invite the various persons that are instrumental for faculty seeking funding to get to know — the IRB members, the Academic Senate committee chairs, NSF and NIH  program directors, academic liaisons from major companies, and others,” Kurniawan said.

She also hopes to use her relationships with campus members to serve as a research collaboration “matchmaker” for faculty, making connections for collaborative work within Baskin Engineering departments and UCSC divisions as more and more funding agencies want to see interdisciplinary projects. 

“The bar is getting higher and higher with funding agencies and success rates continuously drop,” Kurniawan said. “That means you need to come up with ideas that are considered timely, transformative, and novel — and sometimes that is hard when you do not know experts in other disciplines that can make your proposals more competitive.” 

To further facilitate collaboration and show off the impressive research at the school, Kurniawan plans to start a “Get to Know Baskin Engineering Research” day for UCSC members and the public. This would be a chance for faculty and students to participate with posters, panels, and networking opportunities. 

Increasing mentorship

Another area of focus will be mentorship of junior faculty by enhancing existing programs run at UCSC through centers such as the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Center for Reimagining Leadership (that she currently serves as an advisory board member of). Kurniawan plans to take a survey of existing programs and learn where they might fall short for the specific needs of engineering faculty by taking a “user-centered design” approach characteristic to her research. She will work with the programs’ leaders to enhance or add on without creating duplicative work for the already-busy faculty. 

She also hopes to recruit more postdoctoral fellows and new faculty from the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP), which provides an outstanding pool of potential new faculty members in a wide range of disciplines. Kurniawan hopes to dispel myths about the process of recruiting PPFP postdocs and faculty and help bring more high-achieving scholars into Baskin Engineering. 

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