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Leading geneticist takes on research gap in Middle East

Dr. Pierre Zalloua appointed dean of graduate studies and research

LAU has appointed Dr. Pierre Zalloua dean of Graduate Studies and Research. Zalloua, who will take up the role on October 1, was dean of the School of Pharmacy prior to assuming his new post. He is also professor of Genetics and assistant dean for research at the Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine. One of the region’s most accomplished geneticists, Zalloua is the recipient of over four million dollars in competitive research funding. He was recently made a Lown Scholar at Harvard University, where he is also adjunct professor, to continue his research on coronary artery disease. LAU Magazine caught up with Zalloua to see what his plans in this new academic position include.

The Dean of Research and Graduate Studies is a post that has been dormant for a number of years. Why did LAU re-establish it?

The LAU Strategic Plan 2011-2016 called for a reinvigorated position to propel our graduate studies to the next level of excellence.  We want to be innovative in our outlook and make a significant impact through offering creative and interdisciplinary courses. LAU also strives to offer programs that address gaps in the market, so we undertook market research to get a better idea of what the region is in need of. Additionally, in order to have effective graduate studies, you need research infrastructure. We want to have a hub for research at LAU, and the dean position will help create that.

So is LAU moving towards becoming a research-based university?

We are not a research institution but a teaching institution with major research aspirations. We pride ourselves in the student-centered way we teach and want to maintain that. Ultimately we want research to become a trademark of LAU.

What will your position entail?

My job will be twofold.  I will work to harmonize existing graduate programs and create new ones tailored to the needs of the region and to our community. We don’t want to have a large number of graduate courses but a select number of well-developed and specialized programs of immediate benefit to the community. We will work with stakeholders across LAU to coordinate and develop innovative offerings that are multidisciplinary in nature and that build on our existing expertise.

The other aspect of the role will be to develop the necessary infrastructure to streamline research with clear objectives, phases and benchmarks.

The UN has found the Arab world produces the least amount of research in the world. How challenging is it to conduct research in the Arab world and how can LAU help redress the shortcoming in regional research?

Most universities in the Arab world are primarily teaching universities and lack the financial support to conduct research. In many Western countries a substantial amount of the national GDP goes to research, whereas here it’s trivial. That absence shows; for example, the whole Arab world combined produces dramatically fewer patents than Pakistan every year. With this dean’s position, LAU is trying to shift the culture. The dean’s office will assist researchers in finding funding bodies, help them apply to competitive funds, and supporting them in writing competitive proposals. We believe that offering serious graduate programs will lead to the development of the kind of quality research we are striving for.