It didn’t take long for Jeff Zaleski, PhD, to jump into growing the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) at IU-Bloomington with both feet and in full force when he became the deputy director in 2014. It was a labor of love – love of science, research, and adequate funding for research.
At the time, Zaleski was the interim vice provost for Research at IU-Bloomington and said he took the Indiana CTSI deputy director job for the Bloomington campus to work with good people and lead the worthy mission of bringing together Indiana’s brightest minds to solve the state’s most pressing health challenges. Under his leadership, he dramatically increased the number of Bloomington-area researchers by promoting the Indiana CTSI’s available resources and increasing collaborations among the four partner campuses. Zaleski grew the number of IU-Bloomington investigators served each year from 89 in 2014 to 135 today, and the total number of Indiana CTSI programs used from 114 in 2014 to 182 today.
“Jeff deeply cares about the quality of research on this campus,” said Joel Ybe, PhD, Indiana CTSI navigator at IU Bloomington. “He realizes the unique role the Indiana CTSI plays in moving basic research in the direction of translation to address large health challenges, and he has the ability to see far beyond the small details needed to expand the reach of the Indiana CTSI on the Bloomington campus.”
Zaleski has made growing the Indiana CTSI in Bloomington sound easy, saying he just targeted the right people and did a lot of talking about a subject he loves and is passionate about. He drew people in by talking about current challenges in society, like opioids, and made them into themes for new funding programs.
“As we did these programs, we grew awareness and the interest of people who had excellent research project ideas but needed funding,” Zaleski said.
Some examples of Zaleski’s many contributions to the Indiana CTSI include:
- Led an expansion of the IU Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics (an Indiana CTSI service core) to help support IU’s robust campus COVID-19 testing laboratory, which handled more than 50,000 tests per week during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Developed the sociology component of the Rural Obesity Project Development Team (PDT) with Bernice Pescosolido, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and founding director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research.
- Reimagined and recrafted PDTs by creating “reverse PDTs” where research topics were identified first, followed by targeting key scientists in these areas and creating teams around the theme
- Defined and developed the Translation in Public Health Research Award funding mechanism to increase participation of faculty seeking Indiana CTSI funding at the School of Public Health-Bloomington (SPH-B) in collaboration with Carrie Docherty, interim vice provost for Strategy and Innovation and executive associate dean at the SPH-B.
- Brought together researchers from different disciplines who would not typically collaborate to work in teams on defining agro-pollutants that contribute to obesity in rural communities.
“Jeff is a pro at turning over stones to find the right people and building programs to bring those people together and work collaboratively, many times for the first time ever,” said Sharon Moe, MD, co-director of the Indiana CTSI. “He has an ingenuity in finding research money, and that has benefitted so many projects over his tenure that have made a real difference in progressing science and research and impacting patient lives.”
Scott Denne, MD, deputy director of the Indiana CTSI at IUPUI, credits Zaleski with opening the doors to new collaborations and calls him an outstanding scientist.
“His commitment to expanding translational research has resulted in engaging many more talented scientists from IU-Bloomington in the mission of improving human health,” Denne said. “He is an exceptional collaborator and facilitator, and his leadership has greatly strengthened the Indiana CTSI.”
Zaleski is also the chief scientific liaison to the Indiana Innovation Institute, which recently secured a long-term contract with the Joint Artificial Intelligence Agency to manage all AI-related research interests for the Department of Defense. It’s an exciting area of modern research, Zaleski said, and an opportunity to push the boundaries of research in so many areas with new initiatives.
“I know Jeff will continue to engage in clinical and translational sciences efforts and will continue to advocate on behalf of the Indiana CTSI,” said Sarah Wiehe, MD, MPH, co-director of the Indiana CTSI. “He has so many innovative ideas on how we can continue to grow and diversify our efforts, and he has a grand vision supported by concrete ideas for new collaborations in Indiana and across the country. He’s been such a strong asset to the Indiana CTSI.”
William Hetrick, PhD, was named the new Indiana CTSI deputy director for the IU-Bloomington campus during the 2022 Indiana CTSI Annual Meeting. Hetrick is currently the chair for the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU-Bloomington, where he has been working since 2001. He is also the co-director of the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Research Center at Indiana University.