Wilhelm steps down as leader of research, economic development

Office of Research and Economic Development

Dan Moser, October 9, 2023

Wilhelm steps down as leader of research, economic development

After more than five years of leadership, Bob Wilhelm is stepping down as the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s vice chancellor for research and economic development.

Wilhelm will assume a faculty role as the Kate Foster Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in the College of Engineering. The change is effective Oct. 9.

Chancellor Rodney Bennett has appointed Sherri Jones, dean of Education and Human Sciences, to serve as the university’s interim vice chancellor.

Sherri Jones has been appointed interim vice chancellor

“Please join me in thanking Bob for his service to our university,” Bennett said. “Bob leaves us with a foundation on which to expand our research enterprise.”

Under Wilhelm’s leadership, the university’s research expenditures have grown 10.4%, from $308 million in 2018 to an all-time high $340 million in 2022 (the most recent year available). The ORED team has also supported a 35% increase in externally sponsored research awards in the last five years.

Wilhelm has advanced quality, diversity and research expansion by encouraging collaboration across disciplines and engaging regional and national partners. The work has led to new interdisciplinary research centers, focus areas for large-scale research and academic programs, new research initiatives, and programs to support the broader research culture on campus.

He also served as a leader on the university’s COVID-19 Taskforce. His guidance helped the university establish its own testing facility and emerge from the pandemic with positive momentum.

“It has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve over the past five years as the vice chancellor for research and economic development at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln,” Wilhelm said. “We have made significant progress together and I know that your experience and expertise will continue to provide a strong network of support for UNL.”

An award-winning researcher, Wilhelm specializes in precision engineering. He received a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1994 and was named a fellow of the International Academy for Production Engineering in 2013. He was awarded more than $6 million in peer-reviewed competitive research funding between 1993 and 2009.

Wilhelm, a professor of mechanical engineering and engineering science, came to Nebraska in 2018 after working at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for 25 years. He joined the UNC faculty in 1993 and served in various executive roles, including as the institution’s chief research officer.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Wichita State University, Master of Science from Purdue University, and a doctorate from the University of Illinois.

The university will conduct a national search to permanently fill the vice chancellor role. Details will be announced.

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