Dr. Rupa Iyer is the inaugural Vice President of Research, Innovation and Economic Development at Tarleton State University. She established Tarleton’s new Division of Research, Innovation and Economic Development, and is leading the planning, implementation, and oversight for a university -wide strategic initiative to expand research and innovation and promote partnerships to stimulate economic development.
Prior to joining Tarleton, she was the Founding Director of Biotechnology programs and Professor, Engineering Technology at the University of Houston’s College of Technology. She generated millions of dollars in state and federal funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Texas Workforce Commission, and she created and implemented an interdisciplinary biotechnology research-based undergraduate degree and graduate degree program. The program is the first biotech program in the country accredited by ATMAE and the second most well attended in the nation. She was the Director of the Center for Life Sciences Technology, the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies for the College of Technology, and a Fulbright Specialist to Morocco.
The Gulf Coast/Houston chapter of the Association for Women in Science gave Dr. Iyer its Outstanding Women in Science Award in 2020 in recognition of her leadership, mentoring and commitment to STEM education, research and careers. She is a Research Leader fellow of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Council on Research (COR). She served as National Science Foundation Program Director in Alexandria, Va., in 2017-19. She has received numerous teaching, research and service accolades, including the University of Houston’s highest teaching honor, the Distinguished Leadership in Teaching award.
Dr. Iyer is committed to broadening participation and access to enhance STEM skills for her students and professional growth for faculty. She integrated her disciplinary research and evidence-based approach to STEM education to develop research-based academic programs. The cost-effective approach is providing a global platform to solve problems in environmental contamination and enhance STEM education. The model is implemented at five diverse institutions — an Historically Black University, a Minority Serving Institution, an Hispanic Serving Institution, a rural university, a private university and a community college. Dr. Iyer received her PhD in microbial genetics from Michigan State University and conducted her postdoctoral studies at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her research is in soil microbiome exposure and adaptation to xenobiotic compounds, and its implications and applications in biotechnology.