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Norman Drinkwater Serving as Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education

Headshot of Dr. Drinkwater

Professor of Oncology Dr. Norman Drinkwater is currently serving as Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at UW-Madison, replacing Dr. Marsha Mailick (School of Social Work) who is on temporary leave from her vice chancellor duties. Prior to the appointment, Drinkwater had been serving as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in the Biological Sciences since 2015.

Previously, Dr. Drinkwater served as the chair of the Department of Oncology and director of the McArdle Laboratory from 1992 until 2008. He is an accomplished Badger alumnus, completing both his undergraduate and graduate studies at Wisconsin-Madison, graduating with a Ph.D. in Oncology in 1980. Following postdoctoral research at Michigan State, he returned to UW-Madison and the McArdle Laboratory as a faculty member.

Dr. Drinkwater cites UW’s unique culture as a research institution as a key reason he has been drawn back to the university at various steps of his education and career. He highlights the focus on training graduate students and the collaborative environment of the university as two primary factors contributing to the success of research at Wisconsin. 

“When you start to work on a new problem or move in a direction that you don’t know much about, you can almost be guaranteed that one of the world’s experts on the subject is on this campus. And all it takes is a phone call,” says Dr. Drinkwater. “What makes Wisconsin different is that everybody here is invested in each other’s success.”

In 2014, the leadership of the Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was reorganized to maximize the potential for research being conducted on campus. Traditionally, the dean of the graduate school had also served as the vice chancellor for research. The creation of a separate office of the vice chancellor for research and graduate education provided the opportunity for dedicated personnel to focus their full efforts on fulfilling the university’s research mission.

“We now have a significant number of people who spend their full time thinking about the research enterprise on campus,” says Dr. Drinkwater. “This includes what sort of investments we need to make to grow and be successful, what areas of research are ripe for new investment, new directions the campus can take, and what areas of campus research need to be invested in so they can be rebuilt.”

Drinkwater joined the new office as an Interim Associate Vice Chancellor at the request of Vice Chancellor Mailick in 2014. Wanting to give back to the university, he valued the opportunity to bring lessons learned from his 16 years of leadership in at McArdle Laboratory to his new role. Following an open search, he was formally selected for the position in 2015. 

“I took the Associate Vice Chancellor position to try and make a contribution to the success of the campus,” says Dr. Drinkwater. “Within the McArdle Laboratory, there has always been a strong sense among the faculty that we are all in this together, and that we should all work to grow and improve our institution. That stuck with me after I finished serving as chair.”

“Dr. Drinkwater has been an important and valuable resource and mentor to me throughout my career; he always has thoughtful advice and experience relative to successfully navigating both local and national research issues,” says Dr. Howard Bailey, director of the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

Says UW School of Medicine and Public Health dean Dr. Robert Golden, “I am delighted that Norm will be serving as Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. He brings the perspectives of an experienced scientist, successful department chair, and university leader to this vitally important role.”

By Simon Blaine-Sauer

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