Professor Christopher Yip, a leading researcher in the field of single-molecule biophysics, has been appointed the University of Toronto’s first associate vice-president, international partnerships.
He starts a five-year term on July 1 and aims to foster international academic and industry collaborations. He will be reporting to Vice-President, International Ted Sargent and Vice-President, Research and Innovation Vivek Goel.
Yip brings almost a decade of leadership experience within U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), a team of more than 100 faculty members from engineering, medicine and dentistry who look for innovative solutions to pressing problems at the intersection of health-care and engineering.
“U of T is known for its strengths in a number of different areas,” he told U of T News. "Part of my job will be to help enable and grow new emerging areas of impact in the U of T ecosystem.”
The benefits of forging new partnerships around the world are multifaceted, he said. “It aids in increasing the profile of the university, the students and the research. It also improves the profile of Canada more broadly.”
On large research projects, borders tend to become blurred.
“Research is borderless," he said. “We will identify how teams can come together on large projects that take full advantage of each institution's strengths.”
He added: “It’s the opposite of what you see right now around the world, where people are saying ‘Let’s put more and more borders up and block things.’”
Whether in a lab or administrative position, Yip says his goal is always to support others.
“For me, it’s important to provide resources and opportunities to let people drive initiatives, and that’s my main focus.”
Yip joined the university in 1997. He is a faculty member in the department of chemical engineering and applied chemistry, department of biochemistry, IBBME and U of T's Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research. His lab research group of post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students studies the phenomena that take place at the molecular scale.
“We’re developing and applying new ways of understanding how molecules assemble and form structures, and developing new ways of visualizing these processes,” he said.
The applications of their research extend to biology, biophysics, nanotechnology and engineering.
In recent years, Yip's lab has hosted students from Singapore and Cuba, and sent U of T students to Asia and Europe. He also facilitated a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy which led two of his grad students to study at the Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque.
“It was very much a two-way street. They learned from us and we learned from them,” Yip said.
Yip is the author of more than 90 peer-reviewed publications and four book chapters, and has won a Premier's Research Excellence Award among other academic distinctions. From 2000 to 2010, he held a tier II Canada Research Chair in molecular imaging.
“Our ability to continue to recruit the best scholars and students from around the world hinges on our global reputation,” said Professor Goel. “Through the IBBME, Chris has clearly demonstrated the ability to foster collaboration at all levels, bringing together a multidisciplinary community of students, scholars and external partners to support the impact of their research globally.”
Professor Sargent said: “Chris Yip, in his leadership, has stimulated and seeded outstanding new team initiatives. He has shown how to bring collaborating researchers together within U of T to put our best foot forward to the world. And he has built global partnerships that leverage and showcase the best U of T has to offer. He is perfectly poised to unite U of T’s International and Research and Innovation portfolios into a coherent platform building global partnerships.’
Will he have the stamina for the new position?
His hobby suggests he does. Yip is an avid runner, who has 25 marathons and 25 half-marathons under his belt. His best time completing a marathon was three hours and seven minutes.