Raina Maier Named Interim Director of Institute of the Environment
Renowned environmental scientist Raina Maier has been named interim director of the Institute of the Environment, a universitywide research institute that aims to identify and advance innovative solutions to environmental challenges in Arizona and around the world.
An environmental microbiologist by training, Maier joined UA faculty in 1991. In 2012, she became director of the UA National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program, a multimillion-dollar, interdisciplinary research program that aims to promote healthier lives by identifying the ways in which the environment affects human health.
"I am truly excited about this opportunity," said Maier, an environmental science professor in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "Our environmental problems need the best and brightest to find creative solutions, and I believe in the strength of our researchers at the University of Arizona to lead those efforts."
Maier is cutting her sabbatical short to take on the new role.
"I am thrilled that Raina will serve as interim director for our world-class Institute of the Environment," said UA Senior Vice President for Research Kimberly Andrews Espy. "Raina's outstanding interdisciplinary, large-scale research success, strong administration skills, respect from campus peers, and deep connections to our stakeholders make her a natural for this position. I have no doubt that she will further bolster the University of Arizona's longstanding record of excellence in environmental research."
The UA's Superfund Research Program brings together biomedical, environmental science, and environmental engineering researchers to solve pollution problems in arid environments and protect human health and the environment, Maier said.
Maier said she will focus on applying a similarly interdisciplinary approach to research and outreach efforts at the Institute of the Environment. She explained that this, along with engaging stakeholders to inform decision-making, will be her primary focus as she begins serving as interim director.
"The UA has just stellar environmental researchers across our entire campus," Maier said. "Collectively, they are addressing critical issues in water, climate, soil, land use, air quality and environmental health, to name just a few. I want to creatively bring all of our researchers together and help develop teams that will more cohesively innovate solutions to environmental challenges."
Maier also plans to facilitate strong engagement with stakeholders such as communities, policymakers, industry, and the full range of environmental agencies, including the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the Arizona Department of Health Services.
"It's about solving real-world problems," she said.
Maier will assume leadership duties next month, succeeding Jonathan Overpeck, who was named the inaugural Samuel A. Graham dean of the University of Michigan's new School for Environment and Sustainability.
In her first few months, Maier said, she will be largely focused on listening.
"My approach is going to be to talk to faculty, staff, students, leadership across campus, and to our communities, and listen," she said. "Through this process, I hope to continue to develop IE as a connector hub for our students, community and researchers to come and find the collaborators and resources they need to address environmental challenges."
She added: "Ultimately, I want to make sure we have creative solutions to address our issues and leave a better world for future generations."