Dr. Rupa Iyer is the inaugural Vice President of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development at Tarleton State University. Prior to joining Tarleton State University, she was the Founding Director of Biotechnology programs and Professor of Engineering Technology at the University of Houston’s College of Technology (UH), where she created, designed, and implemented an interdisciplinary research-based biotechnology degree program. As founding director of biotechnology programs at the University of Houston in 2005, she generated millions of dollars in state and federal funding including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to develop research and education programs and to design laboratories. She served as the Director for Center for Life Sciences Technology (UH). She was the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies for the College of Technology at UH (2013 -2017) and a Fulbright Specialist to Morocco (2016).
The Gulf Coast/Houston chapter of the Association for Women in Science gave her its Outstanding Women in Science Award in 2020. in recognition of her leadership, mentoring, and commitment to STEM education, research, and careers. Iyer is a fellow of Association of Public and Land Universities’ (APLU), Council on Research (CoR), selected as one of eight rising national research leaders. She also served as program director for the National Science Foundation in Alexandria, Va., in 2017-19. She has received several teaching and service awards including University of Houston’s highest teaching honor, the Distinguished Leadership in Teaching award.
Iyer received her Ph.D in microbial genetics from Michigan State University and conducted her postdoctoral studies the University of Texas’s M. D Anderson Cancer Research Center. Iyer’s research is in soil microbiome exposure and adaptation to xenobiotic compounds, and its implications and applications in biotechnology. She integrated her disciplinary research and evidence based and evidence generating approach to STEM education by developing undergraduate research in environmental sampling. The approach provides a global platform to address and solve problems in environmental contamination and as well as enhancing STEM education in a very cost-effective way. Her undergraduate research model is currently disseminated at 5 diverse institutions, including a HBU, MSI, HSI, a rural university to broaden participation and provide access and opportunities to STEM programs from diverse backgrounds.