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Matthew Mench, head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Tickle College of Engineering, has agreed to serve as the university’s interim vice chancellor for research and engagement beginning December 1.

Chancellor Donde Plowman made the announcement today in a message to the campus community.

image of Matthew mench
Matthew Mench

“Dr. Mench is a proven leader and researcher whose work is among the top in his field. I greatly appreciate his willingness to step forward in service and leadership during this time of transition,” she said.

Mench will take on the role vacated by Robert Nobles, who most recently served as interim vice chancellor since August 2018 and has accepted a position at Emory University. He will not seek the position on a permanent basis and will return to his previous role upon hire of the next vice chancellor.

Mench is a Condra Chair of Excellence Professor. In 2002, while at Pennsylvania State University, he founded and directed the Fuel Cell Dynamics and Diagnostics Laboratory, building an internationally recognized program in electrochemical energy conversion systems. In 2010, he joined UT with a joint appointment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Mench’s research has been funded by various industrial and government sources including multiple automotive companies, material suppliers, the US Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and other sources. He has served since 2013 as department head of MABE, which has undergone significant increases in research and intellectual property development during this time.

A national search for the next vice chancellor for research and engagement, who will report to the chancellor, is under way.

David Manderscheid, provost and senior vice chancellor, and Brian Wirth, Governor’s Chair for Computational Nuclear Engineering, will chair the search committee. The committee will receive its charge by mid-December with the aim of inviting finalists to campus in March 2020.

Other committee members are:

  • Randy Bradley, supply chain management professor and Haslam Family Faculty Research Fellow in the Haslam College of Business
  • Kim Bush, member of the Office of Research External Advisory Board
  • Amy Elias, professor of English and director of the UT Humanities Center
  • Marc Gibson, assistant vice chancellor for corporate and foundation engagement
  • Mike Kilbey, chemistry professor and chair of the Faculty Senate’s Research Council
  • Jean Mercer, assistant vice chancellor for research and director of the Office of Sponsored Programs
  • Jeff Nichols, associate laboratory director for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Computing and Computational Sciences
  • Hollie Raynor, associate dean for research in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
  • Javiette Samuel, assistant vice chancellor for diversity and engagement
  • Neal Schrick, head of the Department of Animal Sciences
  • Steve Smith, dean of UT Libraries
  • Carol Tenopir, Chancellor’s Professor in the School of Information Sciences
  • Janis Terpenny, Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair of the College of Engineering
  • Hanno Weitering, head of the Department of Physics
  • Tami Wyatt, associate dean of research in the College of Nursing


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,