UB Launches Communities of Excellence

Published May 28, 2015

Dear University Community:

Through UB 2020, we have committed to enhancing UB’s capacity to address the difficult problems and questions of our time through impactful, interdisciplinary research, education, and engagement. Communities of Excellence will achieve this by allowing us to capture, focus, and combine our existing faculty strengths to enhance our impact on our local and global communities and offer distinct and innovative educational opportunities for our students.

Following a highly competitive selection process, I am very pleased to announce the focus areas of our new Communities of Excellence:

Global Health Equity


Li Lin, Industrial and Systems Engineering

Samina Raja, Urban and Regional Planning

Pavani K. Ram, Epidemiology and Environmental Health

Korydon H. Smith, Architecture


Global Health Equity will approach the grand challenge of global health inequity by bringing together faculty and students from the health sciences and disciplines that are focused on the social, economic, political, and environmental conditions that lead to inequities. This unique, interdisciplinary approach will distinguish this Community from existing global health programs that primarily focus on the health sciences, and will better promote the health and well-being of under-resourced populations by helping reduce the sources and effects of inequity. Beyond facilitating transdisciplinary thinking, Global Health Equity will build relationships and collaborate with policy-making and global health organizations.

Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies (SMART)


Omar Khan, Architecture

Kemper Lewis, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Michael Silver, Architecture

Kenneth English, Center for Engineering Design and Applied Simulation


SMART will seek to establish UB as a global leader in advanced manufacturing and design by developing the next generation of manufacturing technologies, processes, and education that enable sustainable, cost-effective production of high quality, customizable products. SMART will leverage university and regional strength in manufacturing, partner with regional companies, and capitalize on state and private investments to develop intelligent, interconnected systems that support design and production processes and to educate future manufacturing leaders. Through SMART, UB will participate in the national effort to bolster US manufacturing, making SMART one of the nation’s leading manufacturing institutes and strengthening UB’s ability to shape national policy and research agendas in that area.

The Genome, the Environment and the Microbiome (GEM)


Timothy Murphy, Medicine

Norma Nowak, Biochemistry

Jennifer Surtees, Biochemistry


GEM will work to advance our understanding of the genome, microbiome, and their interaction with the environment and use this knowledge to develop a new model for personalized medicine, empower individuals to have greater control and understanding of their health, and accelerate vital public policy discussions about the ethical, legal, and social implications of genome sequencing. Through collaboration among the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities, and using big data analytics, GEM will expand UB’s reputation in genomics, making UB a leading center for genome and microbiome research and a national model for promoting and increasing literacy in these areas.

Global Health Equity, SMART, and GEM emerged as the leaders from an outstanding group of finalists after a year-long, competitive Communities of Excellence proposal process that engaged hundreds of UB faculty members. Final proposals were reviewed by a panel chaired by Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Venu Govindaraju and composed of distinguished professors Carl Lund, Chemical and Biological Engineering; Margarita Dubocovich, Pharmacology and Toxicology; Cristanne Miller, English; Joseph Gardella, Chemistry; as well as A. Scott Weber, Academic Affairs and Sean Sullivan, Academic Planning, Budget and Evaluation. I am grateful to the panel for their careful analyses and evaluations, which were crucial to the final decision.

I have been incredibly impressed with the engagement of our university community throughout the process of developing the Communities of Excellence – from the conceptualization of the initiative in campus discussions, to the nearly 100 submissions of Community concepts, and to the final proposals. Our faculty’s leadership and creativity have benefitted our entire academic community and will have lasting impact within our university and well beyond.

This is a transformational moment for UB. To learn more about the Communities of Excellence, I invite you to click here to explore our multimedia announcement. 



Charles F. Zukoski
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs