Ontario Tech’s new VP focuses on research

Les Jacobs, vice-president, research and innovation at Ontario Tech University, in his office at the nuclear engineering building. Photo credit: Fiona Campbell

Ontario Tech’s new vice-president, research and innovation, Les Jacobs, is ready to showcase the university’s value and bring it to the international stage.

The university has seen many changes over the last couple months including a name change from University of Ontario Institute of Technology to Ontario Tech and a new mascot. A new vice-president is among these changes.

Jacobs, who has his PhD in politics from Oxford University, has been a part of the social science community for more than 20 years. He is now using his expertise to grow the research capacity at Ontario Tech as he enters his first semester on campus.

He was previously the York research chair in human rights and access to justice at York University. He plans to use his experience to help expand Ontario Tech.

“Our university has great potential, not just in Durham and not just in the province…but internationally,” he said. “We have incredible potential and we can realize that potential.”

Jacobs’ job is to oversee all research at Ontario Tech. He distributes the funding needed for research and manages all labs on campus.

Professors at Ontario Tech spend 40 per cent of their time involved in research, Jacobs said. Another 40 per cent is spent on teaching and the last 20 per cent is spent on running activities, according to Jacobs.

This breakdown means there are many opportunities for students to work alongside their professors and in research labs.

In fact, Jacobs said most graduate students have a research position in the university and there are many opportunities for undergraduate students as well.

Managing and expanding Ontario Tech’s research capacity is important to the university because it can shape the curriculum that is taught, Jacobs explained.

For example, engineering students studying nuclear energy always used to learn about large nuclear reactors. Ontario Tech research shows small, local reactors could have an important role in smaller communities.

Having this information collected first-hand at Ontario Tech makes it easier to integrate into the engineering curriculum, Jacobs said.

Jacobs also stressed the importance of collaborative research, partnering with experts and other universities on research projects. He hopes to build connections and collaborate with experts all around the country.

In Canada most research is a collaborative effort and research at Ontario Tech should be no different, Jacobs explained.

Jacobs sees Ontario Tech taking the lead in innovative tech research areas like medicine. He hopes potential students will see the school as a unique opportunity for hands-on learning.

“We actually have a first-class university in our backyard,” he says, adding he wants the community to realize that.

The senior executive assistant to Jacobs, Vivianne Sharp, has worked at the university for 17 years and sees how fast it is growing.

“There’s so many staff, so many students here now,” she said looking back on her many years on campus.

Sharp sees Jacobs bringing new ideas and perspectives to campus, she explained.

“I’ve come at an exciting time,” Jacobs said.

The foundation is there, he said. Now he plans on helping the research at Ontario Tech skyrocket.