Vice President for Research Chris Cramer announces departure from University

In his time as vice president for research, Cramer has established several specialized research offices and helped the University exceed $1 billion in research expenditures.


Courtesy of Chris Cramer

Chris Cramer visits Branden Moriarty’s lab in the Cancer & Cardiovascular Research Building, Feb. 25, 2020.

Abbey Machtig, Campus Administration Reporter

After nearly 30 years with the University of Minnesota, senior administrator Chris Cramer announced he will leave his position in June.

Cramer, who has served as the vice president for research since 2018, will be joining the Chicago-based research organization Underwriters Laboratories (UL). During his time at the University, Cramer has established several specialized research offices and helped the University exceed $1 billion in research expenditures.

“I’ve never loved the job more in my life than I love vice president for research, and that’s because you get the opportunity to bring people together who might not otherwise have known to join one another,” Cramer said. “There’s always something new you can be working on; you have a real opportunity to see the future.”

Before taking on the vice president for research position, Cramer held a faculty position in the chemistry department and served as the director of undergraduate studies for chemistry at the University.

Cramer’s decision to step away was motivated by the recent relocation of his wife, Laura Gagliardi, to the Chicago area. Gagliardi was a chemistry professor at the University before moving to the University of Chicago last year.

“We were prepared to commute [from] Minneapolis to Chicago; it’s not that bad. We see each other with some frequency, but it did cause me to begin paying attention to potential opportunities in Chicago,” Cramer said.

After leaving his duties at the University in June, Cramer will take on the senior vice president and chief research officer position at UL, where his main responsibility will be advancing science and safety-related research.

“Chris will help us ask the right questions, engage with the scientific community, and facilitate collaborations on a growing range of issues,” said UL President and CEO Terrence Brady in a statement emailed to the Minnesota Daily.

Although the University is an educational institution and UL is a nonprofit organization, the roles have some similarities, Cramer said, such as the opportunity to engage with students through research internships.

Late last year, Cramer worked to launch a collaboration with the organization BioMADE and the U.S. Department of Defense aimed at improving the national bioindustrial manufacturing industry by connecting researchers across the country with resources.

While Cramer is leaving the University and his position on BioMADE’s board of directors, work on the project will continue amid the transition in leadership, he said.

“I think there’s tremendous excitement in the local community, not just the University, but all the people working in the biomanufacturing space to develop relationships with and have an opportunity to look at startups that may come,” Cramer said.

When reflecting on his time as the vice president for research, Cramer also pointed to the creation and management of the University’s Strategic Partnerships and Research Collaborative (SPARC) as a personal success.

SPARC is a research hub designed to connect faculty and students to research projects that may be relatively unknown or large and complex, said Amy Kircher, co-director of the SPARC office.

“Chris has been a real champion and a leader for thinking differently, for setting a tone to try new ways to be innovative and pull research together and build partnerships. I don’t know that that’s always a university’s culture,” Kircher said. “The fact that he was willing to take a chance on SPARC … it’s been a real asset at the University.”

The University will eventually launch a national search for candidates to fill the position. In the meantime, Michael Oakes will serve in the interim position for two years. Oakes, the associate vice president for research, currently reports to Cramer.

Filling the position will be a large responsibility, Oakes said.

“I’m excited and a little bit scared. I hope to rise to the occasion,” Oakes said. “I’m a very tall person — I’ve got size 15 shoes — but I’ve told Chris, ‘I’ve got big feet, but I’m not sure I can fill your shoes.’”