Tracy is UK's New Research VP

by Jeff Worley
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James W. Tracy, UK’s new vice president for research, knows exactly when he got bit by the science bug. His grandfather, a mapmaker and self-taught geologist, is responsible, Tracy says.

“We’d be driving along the highway, come to a cut through the hills, and he’d stop on the side of the road. We would walk up to the layers of rock, and he’d tell me about the different layers and why they had formed the way they did. Some of my earliest recollections are of him handing me a flower or showing me a bee or scooping up a handful of dirt to show me slime mold. I can almost guarantee you that I was the only first grader in Ohio who could scientifically explain slime mold,” says Tracy with a smile.

Tracy says he was almost a Kentuckian by birth. He was born and raised in the small community of Portsmouth—”as far south as you can go in Ohio.” His father was a professor of English, and Tracy grew up surrounded by books. There was never any doubt, he says, that he would get a college education.

His vita: a B.S. in chemistry and physics from Bowling Green State University (1972) and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Purdue (1976). He did a seven-year stint as a research assistant professor in geographical medicine—studying drugs to treat tropical disease—at Case Western Reserve University before taking a position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he became one of the founding members of the School of Veterinary Medicine. Tracy climbed the academic ladder at Wisconsin-Madison and became a full professor in 1990 and, 10 years later, became associate dean for research in the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“I was interested in coming to UK for two main reasons. I felt I had accomplished everything I’d wanted to at Wisconsin-Madison, and in looking for a new position in research administration, I was extremely impressed with Dr. Todd’s Top 20 business plan.” He adds that UK is the only school he knows of that has articulated a specific goal like this and drawn up a detailed plan of how to achieve that goal. “All efforts toward these goals advance research at UK and benefit citizens of the commonwealth,” says Tracy, who has been at UK since last October.

One of his priorities is to work toward meeting the goals of the university’s strategic plan for 2006 to 2009, including efforts to increase interdisciplinary research collaborations across campus, he says. “My primary role as chief research officer is to create a climate where discovery and learning can flourish.”

“With wide-ranging experience at a top-tier public university, Dr. Tracy brings the vision, experience and energy needed to steer UK toward its Top 20 research goals,” says UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy.

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Jim Tracy

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