GW Names New Vice Provost for Research

Pamela Norris, executive dean of the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, is a globally recognized leading expert in nanoscale heat transfer and an advocate for women in STEM.

September 2, 2021

Pamela Norris

New Vice Provost for Research Pamela Norris.

Pamela Norris, executive dean and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science with decades of experience as an international leader in nanoscale heat transfer, has been named vice provost for research of the George Washington University. She also will hold a faculty position in the GW School of Engineering & Applied Science.

She begins the role Nov. 1.

“Dr. Norris joins us at an exciting time for research at GW, when our faculty and students are back in full force in our labs and other research spaces on campus and are committing themselves to scholarship and discovery,” Interim Provost Christopher Alan Bracey said. “The continued growth and expansion of our research enterprise across all fields, including in the physical sciences, arts and humanities, is a critical aspect of how GW will fulfill its promise as an innovative institution of higher education, and Dr. Norris’ years of experience as a research administrator and renowned scholar make her a perfect choice to lead the future of research at GW.”

At UVA, where she has worked since joining the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering faculty in 1994, Dr. Norris has held progressively responsible roles in directing the School of Engineering’s academic and research enterprise. In her current role as executive dean, which she has held since 2018, she leads all academic and research functions within the school and collaborates with the dean and Leadership Council to develop the school’s strategic direction, with a focus on growing the research program. In fiscal year 2021, the school’s sponsored research funding reached nearly $86 million—a 95% increase since 2016.

Previously at UVA, she held positions as executive associate dean for research, associate dean of research and graduate programs and special adviser to the provost.

“I am truly excited for this opportunity to provide strategic leadership to propel the GW research community toward our mutual vision for meeting society’s pressing needs and serving as an engine for global good,” Dr. Norris said.

Dr. Norris’ research excellence in nanoscale heat transfer, particularly interfacial thermal transport with a focus on thermal management across a range of length scales, has earned her distinction in her field. Along with her executive deanship at UVA, she serves as Frederick Tracy Morse Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. She speaks and publishes widely, having chaired and spoken at international conferences and having published over 100 widely cited refereed journal papers. She is editor-in-chief of Nanoscale and Microscale Thermophysical Engineering.

In her research, Dr. Norris has served as the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than 45 sponsored research projects, with research funds totaling over $25 million from the United States Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and more. An interdisciplinary scientist, she holds patents for applications of aerogels in areas that include biological warfare detection and thermal installation, and for innovative thermal management techniques for jet-blast detectors. She also has founded two research laboratories, the Nanoscale Energy Transfer Lab and the Aerogel Research Lab.

Dr. Norris is known as a dedicated mentor for undergraduate and graduate students and fellow faculty members. She has mentored 50 graduate students and dozens of undergraduates.

She is a champion of women in the STEM disciplines and is committed to increasing their representation and retention. Dr. Norris has written and presented widely about how to encourage and increase diversity in STEM fields.

Dr. Norris’ excellence in her field has earned her many prestigious awards and honors. Earlier this year, she was elected an honorary member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, one of the society’s highest honors. She also received the Society of Women Engineers Distinguished Engineering Educator Award in 2016 and UVA’s Raven Award in 2018, which recognizes two faculty per year for their excellence in service and contribution to the university.

Dr. Norris earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering and mechanics from Old Dominion University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She then served as a postdoctoral associate at University of California, Berkeley.

To oversee the search, the university charged a search committee chaired by Paul Wahlbeck, dean of the Columbian College of Arts & Sciences, and comprised of professors, research staff and students across disciplines.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Norris will be joining the university as the vice provost for research,” Dr. Wahlbeck said. “She impressed the search committee with her experience in research administration, interest in working with researchers across campus and the disciplines, commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and her creative ideas for raising our research profile. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Norris to campus.”