Thomas N. Parks

Neurobiologist Thomas N. Parks, interim vice president for research at the University of Utah the past six months, has been named permanently to the post.

Parks, executive director of the Brain Institute at the university and a faculty member for 30 years, was selected on the recommendation of a search committee that spent six months reviewing credentials of applicants. There were four finalists.

Parks will advise U. President Michael K. Young regarding the acquisition, general progress and financial fitness of the university's research and technology advancement effort.

The effort is going well: The U. collected $322 million in research funding during the 2007 fiscal year. During the same period, 17 new companies were created as a result of research faculty innovations, and U. geneticist Mario Capecchi won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology.

"For me, the excitement is to help continue the forward momentum and improvement of the university," Parks said in a news release. "I've been at the university for 30 years, and the place has gotten steadily better in terms of the research and quality of the faculty. It's exciting to have an opportunity to contribute to forward movement on the research front."

Parks, 58, a professor and former chairman of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, took the job on an interim basis at the beginning of this year when geneticist Raymond Gesteland returned to his lab after seven years as research vice president.

Monica Vetter will continue as acting chairwoman of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, a position she took when Parks was named interim vice president. He said he also expects to eventually step down from his position at the Brain Institute.

Parks said he wants to expand the current scope of the department: More and better requests to a wider range of sources; provide more help for faculty members who are writing proposals for research funds; upgrade research facilities. "We want to do more to help the public understand why it's worth spending a little extra money to send their children to a research university."

Parks earned an undergraduate degree in biology at the University of California, Irvine, followed by a doctorate in psychobiology at Yale University and postdoctoral work at the University of Virginia.

During 1985-1993, Parks directed an interdepartmental Ph.D. program in neuroscience. He chaired the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy in the School of Medicine during 1992-2007, and has served as executive director of the Brain Institute since 2004. His own research emphasis is on understanding nervous system development, particularly the portion that controls hearing.

Parks is a native of Fullerton, Calif., and currently resides in Holladay. He has been married 28 years to Patricia Legant, a hematologist-oncologist in private practice in Murray. The couple has one child, Anna, who is a student at Yale.

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