It was a serendipitous path to becoming interim vice president for research for David Hatchett.
Hatchett started at UNLV as an assistant professor of chemistry at UNLV in 1999. A faculty leadership development program quickly led to him being asked to take on bigger roles. Beginning Oct. 1, he was named interim vice president.
And it all began with guidance from a high school teacher. “I grew up in the central valley of California, and my family worked either as farmers or in construction,” says Hatchett. “After spending one summer picking boysenberries and seeing how hard my dad worked in construction, I realized I did not want to pursue these areas as a career. I enjoyed chemistry, and my high school physics teacher was a good friend of my father. He really pushed me after high school to pursue a degree and finally a Ph.D. The rest is history.”
Hatchett earned his bachelor of science degree from California State University, Stanislaus. He says it was known at the time as “Turkey Tech” because of its location in the central valley of California where Foster Farms and Jenny O are two large corporations in the area.
He received his Ph.D. in physical/analytical chemistry from the University of Utah and was a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech in the area of chemical sensors and conductive polymer/metal composites.
Hatchett has taught electrochemistry and advanced analytical chemistry methods to graduate students. His undergraduate courses include Quantitative Analysis and Instrumental Analysis, both the lecture and laboratory sections, and, on occasion, has taught general chemistry.
He also has three patents and says approval of a fourth is imminent and a fifth is in process.
Before being named interim vice president of research, Hatchett was serving as associate vice president for research.
How did you make the transition from faculty member to associate vice president for research?
I was a faculty fellow in the Division of Research for a year when I was asked to take on the role of executive director of research infrastructure. With the transitions in division leadership over the last five years, I took on additional roles. When Lori Olafson was appointed interim VPR in 2020, she asked me to become the AVP.
I have always tried to take a faculty perspective in all of my positions within the division to improve and provide the necessary resources to faculty members. I have tried to do so with the understanding that although the services and infrastructure issues that I encountered when I came to UNLV in 1999 have improved, they still exist on campus to some extent.
What are your immediate priorities as interim VPR?
The immediate priorities are to hire office of sponsored programs and office of research integrity staff to ensure faculty have the needed research services to apply for and receive grant funding. COVID has changed the dynamic in hiring, and we have lost staff who went to work remotely for institutions that pay higher wages because they geographically have a higher cost of living. We have adapted to these changes and are trying to be more flexible to compete for the top people and fill open positions.
As a funded researcher with active grants, I understand how critical it is for research services to function efficiently for grant applications to be successful and the funded research to be completed.
How do you see the Division of Research growing as part of an R1 institution?
The recent cluster hires of faculty in seven areas, including Sustainability in Arid Lands, Racial Equity and Social Justice, Aging and Health Disparities, Addictions, Ubiquitous Data, Entertainment/Media Research and Education, and Neuroscience will likely define areas of research growth over the next five to 10 years. While expertise exists in each core research area, the coordination and alignment of groups with very different perspectives will also be critical.
The Division of Research will continue to help develop the emerging interdisciplinary areas while also supporting those that currently exist at UNLV. Growth in these areas will require flexibility in identifying new avenues of funding that align with our HSI/MSI and land-grant designations. Growth requires that we create necessary policies, structures, and systems that do not hinder faculty while meeting the demands of the current and emerging research challenges. The investments in research infrastructure over the last two-and-a-half years have improved the services of the office of sponsored programs, the office of research integrity, and the office of clinical research trials/investigational pharmacy. Based on these factors, UNLV is poised to increase research activity in pursuit of our institutional goals.
Additionally, any discussion of research growth must include both the medical and dental schools. Both schools are increasing their research missions and goals and the Division of Research is working closely with them. For example, the Division of Research established the office of clinical trials, which works very closely with doctors to engage in research studies. We anticipate research growth in these areas will be increase as the school grows.
You’ve mentioned strategic planning is critical as a way to meet the needs of the Division. Why is this important?
The Division of Research requires necessary staffing resources to meet the needs of the faculty at UNLV. We need to anticipate and plan for future research needs and that requires that we evaluate where we are now, where we expect to be in a year, three years, five years, and beyond to ensure the research mission of UNLV.
We have been required to be reactive to the changing landscape of staffing after COVID, which has directly impacted the ability of the Division to provide high quality service to ensure the research needs of faculty are met. In addition, current staff members have worked harder and done more as other staff members have moved on. This has created a situation where we ended up behind the curve and never really caught up over the last three years.
What are your interests outside of work?
I have been making stained glass for the last 25 years. I make pieces on commission. I create the pattern, cut the glass, foil, and solder to produce the pieces.
I also like to spend time with my family. We are avid hikers. I recently completed a 15-mile hike in Escalante, Utah, to a formation called Golden Cathedral, and I obtained permits and completed the Angels Landing hike in Zion National Park.
What is the most Vegas thing you do?
We get out of Vegas in the summer to the cooler temperatures of Utah as much as possible. Is there anything more Vegas than leaving for cooler temperatures in the summer?
Finally, what does the UNLV campus need to know about the Division of Research?
The UNLV campus needs to know that we are here to be partners and that we want them to be successful. We understand that we are here to help them achieve their research goals and the mission of UNLV in terms of education and research. We will continue to improve the research services and infrastructure so that they can be successful in their scholarly activities and research.
I am looking forward to the opportunity to work more closely with faculty, deans, and the colleges and schools to help them achieve their mission and goals. Finally, my door is always open.