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Head of USF’s research arm steps down, will take a faculty post

Paul Sanberg, senior vice president of USF Research, Innovation and Knowledge Enterprise, will return to research in College of Medicine.

University of South Florida president Steve Currall announced the departure of a second-high level administrator Tuesday.

Paul Sanberg, senior vice president for USF’s Research, Innovation & Knowledge Enterprise, will resign from that post and return, effective Jan. 18, to a distinguished professor position in the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair in the Morsani College of Medicine. Sanberg has been at USF for more than 30 years and in administration for 12.

The announcement followed Monday’s news that Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor of the USF’s St. Petersburg campus, will leave that post at the end of the year and return to the faculty.

“I am very sad to leave all of you but I am greatly looking forward to getting back to what has always been my passion, neuroscience research,” Sanberg said in an email sent to colleagues.

“It has been my honor and privilege to work with you all for these past 12 years, the email said. “I am so proud of the work we have done together to forward the research enterprise at USF, and help USF become recognized as a research and innovation powerhouse throughout Florida, our nation and the world.”

Sanberg, 66, said in an interview he wished to spend the rest of his career researching the issues that are closest to him: neuroregenerative research in stroke patients and the neurological consequences in COVID-19 patients.

“My largest passion has been research,” he said. “I’m not a spring chicken. I really want to spend the last years of my career focused on that.”

In a statement, Currall credited Sanberg for the growth of USF’s presence as a research institution.

“The growth and visibility of USF’s research enterprise has been one of the most important contributions to the university’s upward trajectory during the past decade. USF now ranks in the top 50 universities, public or private, for research expenditures — an impressive statistic for a university of our relative youth,” Currall said in his statement to the USF community. “We owe much of this success to USF’s faculty and the dedicated focus of the team at USF Research & Innovation, led by Senior Vice President Dr. Paul Sanberg since 2013.”

Sanberg said he was proud of how the university has escalated in its research standing, from creating a student research project incubator to the way USF has responded to the last year’s crises with COVID-19 and reckoning with racism.

“I think we really created a culture of innovation,” he said. “Faculty have become inventors as well as scholars. We look for how they can help society’s needs.... We’re the only big research university in such a large population here. To have that kind of impact in the community, it’s needed. We’ve always been a university that responds rapidly to crisis. We’ve shown we always make an impact and we do care.”

The statement from the university said Currall has asked Keith Anderson, assistant vice president for research & innovation, to serve as interim head of the research division while a national search for a new leader is conducted.