Stephen Hsu was an unconventional choice to lead Michigan State University’s research enterprise.
A theoretical physicist by training, Hsu has done respected work on dark energy, black holes and the more esoteric reaches of particle physics, but his only experience in academic administration was a stint last year as the director of the University of Oregon’s Institute for Theoretical Science. The institute’s budget that year was just shy of $74,000.
As vice president for research and graduate studies at MSU, the position he assumed in August, Hsu is charged with setting the broad direction and expectations for a research operation that topped $400 million in expenditures in 2010. His office administers millions in internal grant money, ensures the university’s compliance with ethical and legal standards for research, leads MSU’s efforts to commercialize its research.
But Hsu has another sort of experience that MSU’s leaders found compelling: years as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and a successful one at that.
MSU President Lou Anna Simon said Hsu is not only “an extraordinary intellect,” but he “understands the relationship of research to economic...