URI names Bethany Jenkins interim vice president for research

Jenkins, a professor at the University since 2005, is an award-winning researcher and educator with considerable marine-related research experience

KINGSTON, R.I.— March 20, 2023 – The University of Rhode Island has named Bethany Jenkins, professor of cell and molecular biology and oceanography, interim vice president for research and economic development, effective April 8.

“Elevating our research enterprise and emphasizing public scholarship are central components of our new strategic plan, Focus URI, and core to our academic mission as the state of Rhode Island’s flagship university,” said URI President Marc Parlange. “Bethany has been an influential voice in advancing the University’s research enterprise. Her own considerable research experience includes currently serving as a co-principal investigator on several NSF-EPSCoR grants. And she has served in leadership roles both at URI and on national scientific committees.”

Jenkins currently serves as a co-principal investigator on a statewide National Science Foundation Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) coastal ecology grant. The five-year award is focused on new approaches to assess, predict, and respond to the impacts of climate change on coastal ecosystems. She also is co-PI on a pending statewide NSF EPSCoR grant that will support the study of marine plastic pollution on coastal ecosystems, and, through several NSF and Rhode Island Sea Grant awards, she is using genetic and genomic methods to study nutrient metabolism in organisms across ocean ecosystems.

Jenkins was a member of the University’s research advisory council and serves on a steering committee for undergraduate experiential learning focused on supporting the research activities of undergraduate students.

“I am thrilled to join URI’s dynamic leadership team to collaboratively elevate and support the outstanding scholarship and research at URI conducted by exceptional faculty, postdoctoral scholars, students, and research staff,” Jenkins said. “I look forward to working with the talented team in URI’s Division of Research and Economic Development, and I am excited to facilitate partnerships with all supporters of scholarship and research, including the state of Rhode Island, the federal government, companies, philanthropists, and foundations.”

Nationally, Jenkins was a member of, and held elected leadership roles with, the Ocean Carbon

Biogeochemistry Scientific Steering Committee, an organization created by NSF, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help identify research priorities and coordinate collaborative, multidisciplinary opportunities in ocean biogeochemistry research. She also serves as a member of a scientific steering committee for the NSF Chemical Oceanography GEOTRACES program, which aims to understand trace element cycling in the ocean.

Jenkins joined URI in 2005 through a joint appointment as an assistant professor of cell and molecular biology and oceanography in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the Graduate School of Oceanography. She was promoted to associate professor in 2012, and to professor in 2017. She also has served as the graduate program coordinator for the cell and molecular biology program, and the graduate program director for biological and environmental sciences.

The recipient of several scientific awards, Jenkins received the URI Research and Scholarship Excellence Award in 2018 and, in 2016, was awarded the Brown University Inspiring Women in Science Award. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, with honors, from Mount Holyoke College, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Oregon.

Jenkins appointment follows the announcement of Peter Snyder’s decision to step down from the role, which he has held since 2018. Snyder will continue to serve on the University faculty. Parlange, last week, thanked Snyder “for his entrepreneurial leadership; his considerable contributions to our University and state; and his ongoing, important work to improve early detection of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.” Jenkins will hold the role as the University undertakes an international search, and she will report jointly to the president and to Barbara Wolfe, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.