Dr. Rupa Iyer is the inaugural Vice President of Research, Innovation and Economic Development and Professor of Biology at Tarleton State University 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. Now in her third year, Iyer has presided over, the highest research expenditures and HERD rankings in the history of Tarleton and reducing the administrative burden associated with sponsored research. She has also led the creation of two new institutes, The Biotechnology Research and Innovation Institute and the Institute for Rural Research and Economic development, both to support regional innovation ecosystems and drive economic development through research, especially in underserved communities.

Dr. Iyer is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The Gulf Coast/Houston chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) gave Dr. Iyer its Outstanding Women in Science Award in recognition of her leadership, mentoring and commitment to STEM education, research, and careers. Dr. Iyer was a Fulbright Specialist to Morocco where she was responsible for advising on implementing academic and research programs. She was Program Director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) between 2017-2019. Dr. Iyer currently serves on the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), Council on Research (COR) Executive Committee.

Prior to joining Tarleton, she was the Founding Director of Biotechnology programs, Professor, and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Houston. She generated millions of dollars in state and federal funding to create and implement the first accredited biotechnology program in the country by The Association of Technology Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE). She has received the University of Houston’s highest teaching honor, the Distinguished Leadership in Teaching award.

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, a Hispanic Serving Institution, a rural university, a private university and a community college.

Dr. Iyer received her Ph. D from Michigan State University and conducted her postdoctoral studies at the M.D Anderson Cancer Research Center, Houston, TX. Her research is in soil microbiome exposure and adaptation to xenobiotic compounds, and its implications and applications in biotechnology.