Cal Poly Appoints Internationally Renowned Biomedical Researcher as Vice President of Research and Economic Development

Dr. Renee A. Reijo PeraSAN LUIS OBISPO – Cal Poly has appointed Renee A. Reijo Pera, an internationally recognized stem cell biologist, as vice president for Research and Economic Development, effective Aug. 12.

Dr. Pera brings to her new role a proven track record in economic development as well as a strong background in undergraduate and graduate research and commitment to supporting students in their research efforts. 

For the past five years, Pera has served as vice president for Research and Economic Development at Montana State University, where she was also professor of cell biology and neurosciences and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Prior to her service at Montana State, she was a professor at Stanford University from 2007 to 2013, directing the Center for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research and Education and the Center for Reproductive and Stem Cell Biology, as well as the doctoral program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

“Dr. Pera’s vast experience and proven track record as a respected researcher and as a leader for institutional economic development and research will be a tremendous asset to Cal Poly as we look to advance those endeavors across our disciplinary spectrum,” said Kathleen Enz Finken, Cal Poly’s provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “Her leadership, scholarship and creativity will be a welcome addition to the campus community.”

In her new role at Cal Poly, Pera will oversee the Grants Development and Sponsored Programs office, the Institutional Review Board, and other grant-related compliance bodies, as well as the Cal Poly Technology Park. She will lead university efforts in advocating for research and scholarship while promoting the value of a diverse range of scholarly and applied research activities and industry relationships for faculty, staff and students.

As part of her role, Pera will foster an environment in which the research and creative accomplishments of faculty and students are encouraged and rewarded, identify and create opportunities for financial support, and promote the reputation of Cal Poly's research and scholarship locally, nationally and beyond.

“Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing approach represents the crossroads of academic pursuit and hands-on application — and provides fertile ground for innovative and impacting research,” Pera said. “I am excited to join this university’s efforts to both raise the profile of the work already being done here and expand the research and economic development opportunities for our campus community.”

“In my meetings with Cal Poly faculty, staff, students, and administrators, every conversation clearly spoke to the university’s focus on combining the highest quality of education with research opportunities — no matter the academic discipline,” Pera said. “I am incredibly pleased to accept this new position, and I look forward to being a part of defining success in research at Cal Poly in a way that I believe will resonate throughout the university community, the Central Coast, California and beyond."

Pera has earned numerous honors and awards, including being named one of 20 Influential Women in America by Newsweek magazine in 2006. Her work in imaging algorithms was recognized as one of the top 10 biomedical breakthroughs by Time magazine in 2010.

She founded and served on the boards of several startup companies involved in research focusing on embryo diagnosis, predicting neural degeneration and cardiomyopathies, improved treatment for reproductive failure, and improvements in aging and women’s health. She has proven highly effective at bringing research discoveries into the field of medical applications.

Her research has garnered tens of millions of dollars in both public and private support, including a recent $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate human primordial germ cells.

Additional accomplishments include her service on the Executive Council of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities’ Council on Research and as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors since 2015. At Stanford, she served as the George D. Smith Endowed Chair (2012-14) and as a President’s Office Faculty Fellow (2010-12). She also has received the International Award for Career Impact (2011, Valencia, Spain) and the Australian Society for Reproductive Biology Founder’s Award (2010, Sydney, Australia).

Pera earned her B.S. degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin at Superior in 1983 and M.S. in agriculture with a specialization in entomology from Kansas State University in 1987. She earned a doctorate in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology from Cornell University in 1993 and pursued post-doctoral work in human genetics with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1993-97.

“I first visited San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly nearly two decades ago on a trip up the California coast,” Pera said, “and I thought how much I would love to live and work in this community and on this campus. My husband, Fred, and I are looking forward to this new chapter in our lives.”

Contact: Matt Lazier

April 9, 2019

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