By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, Jan. 12, 2015
Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, will become director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) Jan. 15.
Pillemer succeeds John Eckenrode, professor of human development and BCTR director since its founding in 2011, who will continue as director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Named for the late Cornell developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, whose research helped to inspire the federal Head Start program, the BCTR brings together Cornell social and behavioral scientists and real-world practitioners to disseminate research findings to community programs supporting human health and development and to develop, evaluate and disseminate innovative social and behavioral interventions. Home to more than 20 projects focused on nutrition, youth development, parenting, health care, aging and related issues, the center includes more than 120 Cornell faculty affiliates.
“Human Ecology has embraced translational research as its approach to extension and outreach, and the Bronfenbrenner Center is creating a better marriage between science and service,” Pillemer said. “It is a great honor to lead a center associated closely with Urie, whose human ecological approach set the standard for many of us working to create a seamless connection between research and practice.”
Pillemer joins the BCTR with extensive experience guiding translational research projects. He co-directs the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life, a joint project with Weill Cornell Medical College researchers and community-based health-care partners to help older adults prevent and manage pain, and the Translational Research Priorities in Palliative Care Project. He founded the Cornell Legacy Project, a national social science survey to collect elder wisdom on love and marriage, work and careers, parenting and other topics.
“Karl is well-positioned to lead the center thanks to his deep ties with community partners across the state and with Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Cornell Office for Research and Evaluation and Weill Cornell Medical College, all of whom are vital partners in achieving the college’s translational research goals and in fulfilling Cornell’s land-grant mission,” said Alan Mathios, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology. “I am excited to see how the center will evolve under Karl’s direction, and I am grateful for John Eckenrode’s tremendous guidance of faculty, staff and students to deliver translational programs in its first three years.”
Under Eckenrode, the center developed an Innovative Pilot Study Program, awarding up to five grants annually to faculty teams leading research intended to influence real-world practice and policy. Its Research Navigator Initiative, which builds ties between faculty experts and CCE partners, has reached more than 100 extension educators and executive directors.
“It has been a tremendous honor to help launch the BCTR and work with our talented faculty and staff,” Eckenrode said. “I am sure the center will flourish under Karl’s leadership given his experience, skills and vision for the future.”
Pillemer intends to build on the center’s successes and to recruit more faculty members from across Cornell to pursue translational research. He also wants to deepen ties with Cornell University Cooperative Extension-New York City, calling it an “on the ground research-ready organization reaching thousands of city residents,” and the statewide 4-H program, which, he said, “can serve as a living laboratory to better understand and promote positive youth development.” Finally, he wants to enhance the center’s communications platforms, using social media and other nontraditional channels to deliver research findings to the public.
“The center is in a strong position, with a number of excellent projects with a broad community base and solid grounding in research,” Pillemer said. “I’m excited to help continue and strengthen this excellent work.”
Ted Boscia is director of communications and media for the College of Human Ecology.