Ensuring a Flourishing Future
Dr. Steve Taylor, Auburn’s New Senior Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Plans for Growth of the University’s Research Enterprise
Dr. Steve Taylor may have begun his tenure as Auburn University’s senior vice president for research and economic development in June, but his time at Auburn stretches back decades. After earning degrees in agricultural engineering in Florida and Texas, Taylor came to Auburn in 1989 as an assistant professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering.
Since his days growing up as a 4H participant in Kentucky, Taylor has been interested in various aspects of agriculture, and his own research began with work in structural wood engineering for the forest products industry. So, when Taylor talks about further advancing Auburn’s flourishing research enterprise, he brings a lot of experience to the conversation.
As a professional engineer, Taylor understands and refers often to the problem of “friction losses,” which occur when two things rub against each other. Water traveling through a pipe, for instance, is slowed down as its molecules bump against the inner surface of the pipe. Similarly, Taylor sees a type of friction at work in areas like research administration. A short-term goal of Taylor’s is reducing stress for researchers and administrators alike by working to ensure effective business processes and procedures.
He points to a target set for Auburn research by the university’s president, Dr. Christopher B. Roberts: doubling research activity over the next few years. “Research is important to him, clearly,” Taylor said. “It’s important to Auburn’s future. As Auburn continues to advance as an institution, research is a key part of that.”
As an owner of multi-generational family farmland, as well as timber land in the Auburn area, Taylor is well versed in helping things grow. When he served as associate dean for research in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Taylor was tasked with doubling research activity for the college and, in fact, saw it nearly triple over a period of several years.
When asked about Auburn’s greatest research strengths, Taylor pointed not to a specific program or project but rather to the researchers themselves. He noted that Auburn’s research faculty were able to keep research activity on the rise even during the COVID-19 pandemic, while still ensuring the safety of those involved. Taylor said he loves meeting with researchers and that “hiring the best people” will remain a focus of the university.
As part of a long-term plan to ramp up Auburn’s research efforts, Taylor intends to work closely with the deans and other senior leadership “to identify strategic areas where more faculty are needed” and to map out new opportunities for research growth.
Add to that his interest in increasing Auburn’s research capacity and infrastructure, and it becomes clear that the growth anticipated for the university’s research enterprise is well on its way to becoming a reality. As impressive as Auburn’s research accomplishments already are, Taylor is confident that even greater things are yet to come.
“Auburn has the potential to be one of the premier research institutions in the country,” he noted.