New associate VP for research named
The allure of milder weather brought Pam Benicewicz back to the South. And the opportunity to put her science, industrial research, and team-leading skills to work brought her to Carolina.
Benicewicz, a former senior physicist, project leader, and lab manager for General Electric in upstate New York and Greenville, S.C., has been named associate vice president for research and senior director of research advancement and outreach at Carolina. She first joined the University last year as director of industrial research relations.
“There are lots of ways to make research collaborations happen, and I’m looking forward to fostering more research with industry and national labs,” said Benicewicz, who earned her Ph.D. in physics from the University of New Mexico and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics from the University of Florida, where she was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.
Benicewicz will serve as the point of contact with potential collaborators and promote student research and advancement through those interactions. “Pam will be working with me to create and implement a strategic plan to expand and improve the research enterprise of the University of South Carolina,” said Steve Kresovich, vice president of research and graduate education. “It’s my belief that such a proactive approach will result in the growth of university research, job creation, and economic development.”
Benicewicz will join Kresovich in meeting with deans and key faculty and staff during the next several months. She’s also planning to meet with personnel at Savannah River National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to explore collaborative opportunities.
“I have met with potential industrial partners with some of our scientists in the NanoCenter, and you’d be amazed at how pleased they were that we were reaching out to them,” she said.
That kind of grassroots effort is what helps to forge long-term collaborations with industry, she said.
“To develop these partnerships, I think you start with what I call the three I’s: interest, involvement, and investment.
“First you find out what a company’s level of interest is—do they want to develop software with us or conduct research and development projects? Intellectual property is the traditional path that brings industry to a university, but there are other ways for it to happen.
“Then it’s decided how much involvement there will be. Do they want to hire our graduates or put their people on site for training, or set up joint seminars. Once you do those things, you begin to develop mutual trust and that potentially leads to investment, which can be joint grants, direct research funding, or co-locating labs in our facilities.”
Benicewicz said the wet lab space planned for private industrial research partners in the Horizon I Building in Innovista will be one of several ways to promote collaboration.
“I think we’ll start seeing what people have wanted to see all along in Innovista. The Centers of Economic Excellence are beginning to launch companies, and we’ll see more evidence of private investment in the research enterprise here,” she said.
Benicewicz’ industrial research background includes her work with GE where she was also an experimental physicist, specializing in the area of optical physics. Her work included developing laser-based spectroscopic techniques and systems that provided in-situ, real-time evaluation of materials as well as developing optical diagnostic techniques to monitor laser-based processes, such as laser shock peening. She holds seven U.S. patents from her work at GE with an additional three patents pending.
Prior to her positions at GE, Dr. Benicewicz was a research professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. Her responsibilities included teaching and establishing a research program based on the use of lasers and optical techniques to detect and identify hazardous materials in the environment. From 1993 until 1997, she was a team leader and staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she was responsible for the leadership, technical direction, and financial management of a team of research scientists and technicians engaged in the study of the chemical and physical properties of heavy metals.
Benicewicz and her husband, Brian Benicewicz, USC Educational Foundation Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair in Polymer Nanocomposite Research, have two children. Derek is a doctoral candidate in chemistry at Georgia Tech, and Leigh Ann is a junior majoring in public relations at Boston University.