John Morris, a professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Chemistry, has been named the associate dean for research in the College of Science.

A Cliff and Agnes Lilly Faculty Fellow, Morris joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1999. His research focuses on discovering atomic-level details of gas-surface reaction mechanisms. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and has brought in more than $10 million in external funding. Among those research awards is a multi-institution $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, work aimed at developing materials able to decompose dangerous gasses on contact, with applications including air filters, gas masks, and related detoxification products.

He is the past recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and has been elected as a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow. He also has served for the past eight years as graduate program director in the Department of Chemistry.

“Our incoming dean, Kevin Pitts, and I are very excited about the energy and passion John brings to the position along with his desire to support and promote research in the college,” said Ron Fricker, interim dean of the College of Science. “As associate dean for research, John can leverage the building blocks of his own scientific successes to diffuse them throughout the college. I’m confident his leadership will be a catalyst for our already impressive scientific achievements in research in the past five years.”

Morris earned his bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College in 1991 and a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 1996. He completed a postdoctoral associate research appointment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999 and served as a visiting faculty member at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2008.

Morris takes over the position from Randy Heflin, a professor of physics, recently named as senior associate vice president for Research and Innovation at Virginia Tech.

“I am thrilled to be serving the College of Science as associate dean for research,” Morris said. “Randy Heflin has done an outstanding job, and I thank him for his many years of service. I look forward to working with each of my colleagues across the college to support their most aspirational research and scholarship goals.”

Fricker also commended Heflin on his tenure as associate dean for research. Under his leadership from 2017-21, the College of Science research expenditures jumped to $36.1 million in 2021 from $23.6 in 2017. Awards totaled $47.5 million with the number of awards at 286 in 2021, both up from, respectively, $28.6 million total with 234 awards in 2017.

“The College of Science has been extraordinarily lucky to have Randy Heflin at the helm of our college-wide research efforts for the past six years, even as he also carried out his own research in the Department of Physics,” Fricker said. “The Office of Research and Innovation at Virginia Tech has hired an exceptional leader to help them grow.”

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