Meet Our Team

Padma Raghavan

Padma Raghavan, Ph.D.

Vice Provost for Research and Innovation and Chief Research Officer
Senior Advisor to the Chancellor
Distinguished Professor of Computer Science
For appointments, please contact Alex Hargett at

Padma Raghavan serves as the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation and holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University. She is instrumental in shaping the university's research landscape, overseeing a broad range of initiatives from technology transfer to long-term strategic partnerships with industry and government. Notable collaborations include Ancora Innovation with Deerfield Management and the Pathfinder project with the U.S. Army. Prior to Vanderbilt, she made significant contributions at Penn State, where she was the Associate Vice President for Research and the founding Director of the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences.

In her academic role, Raghavan specializes in high-performance computing, focusing on developing algorithms for scalable, fault-tolerant, and energy-efficient computing. She is the recipient of prestigious accolades including the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award. She's been elevated to Fellow status in both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In 2022, she was appointed to the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science, affirming her influence in the scientific community.

Vanessa Allwardt

Vanessa Allwardt, PMP, CSM

Senior Manager for Executive & Strategic Research Projects

As the senior manager for executive and strategic research projects at Vanderbilt University's Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation, Vanessa Allwardt drives strategic initiatives and supports high-level research strategy. Before joining in 2022, she managed over $70 million in complex R&D projects and led interdisciplinary research teams. Born in Germany, Allwardt moved to Nashville in 2004 and started at Vanderbilt in 2007 as an undergraduate researcher. She holds an A.A.S. in biotechnology and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM).

Alan Bentley

Alan Bentley, M.S.

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Technology Transfer & Intellectual Property Development

Bentley joined CTTC in June 2011 and is responsible for directing all aspects of the office, focusing on faculty service and transactional efficiency. Prior to Vanderbilt, Bentley served for five years as the director of commercialization for Cleveland Clinic Innovations, that health care center’s technology commercialization function. Before the Cleveland Clinic, he served as the associate director of the University of Virginia’s Patent Foundation. Bentley received his M.S. in physics from the University of Virginia, and separate undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering and in physics from Carnegie Mellon University. Bentley is a registered patent agent and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of University Technology Managers.

Jennifer Bischoff

Jennifer Bischoff, CPA, MAcc

Executive Director for Research Operations

As the Executive Director for Research Operations in Vanderbilt University's Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation, Jennifer Bischoff oversees operational, financial, and administrative activities. She plays a crucial role in developing centers and institutes reporting to the Vice Provost. Before her current role, she held various leadership positions in financial administration at Vanderbilt since 2006. With over 20 years of experience in business management and financial operations, she earned her Master of Accountancy from Belmont University and a BA in Economics and Psychology from Vanderbilt.

Laurie Cutting

Laurie Cutting, Ph.D.

Associate Provost

Laurie E. Cutting is the Associate Provost at Vanderbilt, where she aims to foster interdisciplinary collaborations and boost Vanderbilt's position in ARPA-H projects. A distinguished scholar in neuroscience and child development, she also serves as the Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Prior to Vanderbilt, Cutting was an Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins in both Neurology and Education. She has received numerous accolades including an NIH MERIT Award in 2018 and has contributed over 150 scholarly publications. Her role also involves promoting innovation, commercialization, and industry partnerships.

Laurie Cutting

Alex Hargett, BSHS, MBA

Executive Assistant

Alex Hargett joined OVPRI as the Executive Assistant to Vice Provost Padma Raghavan in March 2024. In her role, she oversees the day-to-day operations of the office, providing comprehensive administrative support, managing communications, and coordinating schedules. Prior to joining Vanderbilt University, Alex served as an executive assistant within the healthcare and higher education sectors in Memphis, where she expertly balanced the administrative demands of multiple executives simultaneously.

Jane Hirtle

Jane Hirtle, Ph.D., M.S.

Assistant Provost for Research Strategy

As chief-of-staff for Vanderbilt's Vice Provost for Research and Innovation, Jane Hirtle coordinates strategic activities, and leads research communications. She focuses on implementing the office’s vision and enhancing Vanderbilt’s research reputation. Hirtle also fosters collaborations with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Prior to her current role, she managed Vanderbilt's Undergraduate Medical Education evaluation team. A triple Vanderbilt alumna with a Ph.D. in psychology, her expertise includes cognitive development in infancy. With over a decade at Vanderbilt, she has diverse experience in research, administration, and education.

Cara Ince

Cara Ince, M.A.

Director of Research and Innovation Public Partnerships

Nashville native and Vanderbilt alum, Care Ince, specializes in enhancing research and innovation collaborations between Vanderbilt and public sector leaders. Ince coordinates with key university units to identify and advance projects that align with government priorities and address community needs. Prior roles include serving as director of federal grants for Congressman Jim Cooper, Tennessee State Parks partnership director, and director of community relations at Conexion Americas. Her work focuses on creating synergies to benefit Nashville and Tennessee communities.

Jean Mercer

Jean Mercer, M.R.A.

Senior Assistant Provost for Sponsored Programs Administration and Compliance

As senior assistant provost, Jean Mercer oversees an expansive portfolio within Sponsored Programs Administration including grant proposal submission and non-financial award set-up, negotiation and management of contracts and subawards, research administration systems reporting, and training and procedures. Additionally, Mercer oversees Research Integrity and Compliance functions. With over 25 years in research administration, she is a certified research administrator and active contributor to national conversations in the field. Mercer holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Colorado and a master's in research administration from the University of Central Florida. She started her career at Indiana University, where she worked for 20 years, eventually becoming their director of grant services.

Hilda McMackin

Hilda McMackin, Ph.D.

Director, Research Administration Systems and Reporting

As Director of Research Administration Systems and Reporting, Hilda McMackin led the transition to the Vanderbilt Electronic Research Administration (VERA) system, aiming to streamline research administration. With a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Vanderbilt, she has diverse roles within the university, including lab management and grants oversight. She joined the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation in 2017, where she launched research development programs and managed compliance activities. McMackin has worked with an array of research sponsors and is an active member in the research administration community. In 2023, she won the National Organization of Research Development Professionals mentoring award.

Liane Moneta-Koehler

Liane Moneta-Koehler, Ph.D.

Assistant Provost for Research Integrity and Compliance

As Assistant Provost for Research Integrity and Compliance at Vanderbilt, Liane Moneta-Koehler oversees the Research Integrity and Compliance Program, which includes human subjects research, research security, and export compliance. She collaborates with various departments to enhance Vanderbilt's research integrity and accountability, helps faculty navigate policies, and supports research growth in a manner that mitigates risk. Previously a director in the Office of the Vice Provost and a postdoctoral fellow, Moneta-Koehler holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and Human Development and has expertise in math cognition and doctoral student success.

David A. Owens

David A. Owens, Ph.D.

Professor for the Practice of Management and Innovation
Evans Family Executive Director, The Wond’ry Innovation Center

David A. Owens is the Evans Family Executive Director of The Wond’ry, Vanderbilt's Innovation Center, and Professor of the Practice of Innovation at Owen Graduate School. With multidisciplinary appointments across Vanderbilt, he is a leading authority on innovation. Owens earned his PhD and BS from Stanford and is a Registered Professional Engineer. He has extensive industry experience, including as CEO of Griffin Technology and consultant for major firms like NASA and LEGO. His book "Creative People Must Be Stopped" serves as the basis for a popular MOOC, and he sits on various corporate boards.

Herschel Pollard

Herschel Pollard, M.S.

Research Communications and Events Manager

Herschel Pollard, a strategic communicator and Nashville native is a journalism graduate from The University of Tennessee. He began his career in digital journalism with WTVF, earning two Emmy awards. After completing his master's, he transitioned to strategic communications, working at the Healthcare Solutions Group and later at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a senior strategy consultant. In his current role, Pollard focuses on enhancing Vanderbilt’s research and innovation reputation through comprehensive communications, events, and strategic collaborations.

Liane Moneta-Koehler

Christian Presley, MEng

Executive Director of ACCRE

Christian has spent the past 25 years supporting higher education and research computing. For 13 years he led IT and Research Computing for the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, a joint research institute between multiple University of Maryland colleges, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). There he championed the growth of computing as a partner to science and research by working hand in hand with researchers to develop high performance computing (HPC), large scale parallel storage, software tools, and websites. His most recent work involved leading  the launch of the newest supercomputing cluster for the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at NIH. At NIH, he opened up the computing environment tools beyond traditional HPC to include 3D accelerated remote workstations and 'white glove' service of scientific instrumentation. Christian is originally from Nashville and attended Hume-Fogg Academic HS and excited to be back at Vanderbilt where he got his first taste of higher education as high school student. He has a BS in Computer Engineering from Brigham Young University and a Masters of Engineering in Project Management from the University of Maryland. In a former life, he was a competitive ballroom dancer. 

Joanne Spitz

Joanne Spitz, M.A., C.R.A

Executive Director, Research Development and Support

Joanne Spitz is the Director of Research Development at Vanderbilt University, responsible for enhancing faculty research funding. With over 30 years of experience, she previously elevated grant initiatives at Baylor University and spent 32 years in various research roles at Washington University in St. Louis. Spitz is a Certified Research Administrator and holds degrees from St. Louis University and Washington University. She coordinates with multiple departments to support Vanderbilt’s research aims and has a history of establishing successful grant programs. She has also worked as a freelance academic editor for over 15 years.

Joanne Spitz

Christopher Rowe, M.E., Ed. D.

Executive Director for Industry Collaborations

Christopher Rowe is executive director for industry collaborations in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, working on the Vice Provost’s team and with the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization. He leads the institution’s efforts to create and expand mutually beneficial industry research collaborations that advance strategic scientific programs, solves industry-relevant research and development challenges, and provides channels to deploy and commercialize new technologies of substantial societal impact. He holds faculty appointments in engineering management and communication of science and technology. Prior to his current role, he served as associate dean for external relations, communications director, and inaugural faculty director for the A. James Clark Scholars Program in the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering. Professor Rowe has authored scholarly papers on first-year engineering education, tech-based entrepreneurship, global engineering education and commercialization strategies for new technologies. He has held leadership positions in the American Society for Engineering Education; is a member of the American Society for Engineering Management, the Council of Engineering Management Academic Leaders, and the Association of University Technology Managers; and completed ABET’s Institute for the Development of Excellence in Assessment Leadership. He holds degrees in biomedical engineering and management of technology from the Vanderbilt School of Engineering and a doctorate in higher education leadership and policy from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. He has consulted with a wide range of engineering companies, focusing on high-tech startups developing commercialization strategies.

Jason Valentine

Jason Valentine, Ph.D.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Faculty Liaison

Professor Jason Valentine is a mechanical engineering faculty at Vanderbilt University, specializing in optical metamaterials and hot electron devices. A Purdue and UC Berkeley alum, his work was named one of Time Magazine's "Top 10 Scientific Discoveries in 2008." He has received the NSF CAREER Award, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, and the Chancellor’s Award for Research at Vanderbilt. As faculty liaison, he collaborates with Vanderbilt faculty and leadership to align research priorities between the university and ORNL.

Richard Willis

Richard Willis, Ph.D.

Associate Provost for Research and Innovation

Richard Willis, Anne Marie and Thomas B. Walker, Jr., Professor of Accounting and Senior Associate Dean for the Faculty, is highly regarded for his extensive experience in accounting and financial reporting and his distinguished scholarly research. Recognized for teaching excellence in the U.S. and abroad, he has received the Daimler-Chrysler Award from the Fuqua School of Business and the James A. Webb, Jr. Award for MBA Teaching from The Owen School, among others. His research, focusing on security analysts, firm disclosure, and shareholder litigation, has been published in leading journals, including The Accounting Review, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Journal of Financial Economics, and Journal of Accounting Research.

Elizabeth J. Zechmeister

Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, Ph.D.

Associate Provost for Research and Innovation

Elizabeth J. Zechmeister is the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and Director of the LAPOP Lab at Vanderbilt University. As associate provost, she facilitates human subjects and global research. A leading expert in international survey research, she oversees the AmericasBarometer and the global Comparative Study of Electoral Systems project. Her work has garnered major grants and the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research. An acclaimed educator, Zechmeister has won multiple teaching and mentoring awards and engages students through innovative programs like the LAPOP Fellows immersion and a summer REU program.