Provost post at Brown lures U of C’s Zimmer

By Sydney Schwartz

Robert J. Zimmer, University vice president for research and Argonne National Laboratory and professor in the department of mathematics, has been named the ninth provost of Brown University, effective July 15. Zimmer will leave the University at the end of this academic year.

“We all join in congratulating both him and Brown. He will face interesting challenges in his new role, and he will surely be the equal of them,” said Don Michael Randel, president of the University. “We will feel his loss very deeply because of his very considerable accomplishments here. His work with Argonne National laboratory alone has been of extraordinary importance.”

Zimmer said that Ruth Simmons, the new president of Brown, has initiated an effort to enhance the academic programs at Brown in education and in research. “That’s what I’m looking forward to doing,” Zimmer said. “I’m getting to know a lot of people quickly.”

Zimmer has been in the department of mathematics at the University for 25 years. He is the Max Mason distinguished service professor in the department of mathematics and the College. “The mathematics department has been and continues to be a wonderful place to do mathematics,” Zimmer said. “I’ll certainly miss my colleagues.”

Zimmer has been the vice president for research at Argonne National Laboratory for a year and a half. Argonne National Laboratory, which is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and operated by the U of C under a contract, has 4,500 employees and a budget of almost half a billion dollars.

“I think the University’s relationship to Argonne has been undervalued and underutilized for many years,” Zimmer said, adding that as director he has attempted to strengthen the relationship between the two groups.

“There are a lot of initiatives that the University and Argonne can do, things together that they can’t do individually. It’s a question of bringing scientists into new groupings so that both the University and Argonne benefit significantly,” Zimmer said. “I think we’ve made a good start but there’s a long way to go. I’m certainly hopeful that the University and Argonne will continue along this path after I leave.”

Zimmer succeeds Kathryn T. Spoehr as provost of Brown University; Spoehr announced this summer that she would step down.

The Brown University provost is responsible for overseeing academic programs and libraries, appointing faculty and designating tenure based on recommendations, and reviewing fund-raising programs.

“It’s similar . The one difference is that there’s not a divisional structure there so that changes the complication of the job because things are somewhat more centralized,” Zimmer said.

The University is beginning a search for a new Vice President for Research and Argonne National Laboratories from within the University community.