Thursday, May 25, 2023

Tawny Tibbits doing field work in Belize

While the start of summer often means many departures across the University of Iowa campus, the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates (ICRU) is welcoming the arrival of its new associate director, Tawny Tibbits.

Tibbits, who is originally from Centerville, Iowa, is no stranger to undergraduate research. While pursuing bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and geoscience from the UI, she also pursued undergraduate research opportunities, working with Tiffany Adrain, collections manager of the UI Paleontology Repository, and measured degassing of volcanoes with Mark Reagan, now an earth and environmental science professor emeritus.

After pursuing her master’s in anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Tibbits returned to Iowa City to earn her PhD in geoscience. She joins ICRU from Chadron State College in Nebraska, where she was an associate professor and director of the Veath Planetarium. There, she developed a research lab of her own, serving as faculty mentor to eight undergraduates exploring interdisciplinary questions relating to geochemistry of hard rocks and water quality in the High Plains Aquifer. Tibbits hopes to continue her own research alongside her role in ICRU.

Throughout her academic career, she’s also led several outreach and engagement efforts, from planning the Jakobsen Memorial Conference as a graduate student at the UI to organizing a Halloween STEM outreach event for young children while at Chadron. Tibbits said she is most excited about expanding ICRU’s efforts across campus.

“Research isn’t just lab work,” she said. “It’s literature reviews; it’s art; it’s music. Almost every academic department and center is doing research that undergraduates can engage in.”

Tibbits steps into the new associate director role as Melinda Licht steps down after almost seven years as a program coordinator for the center. Director Bob Kirby, who has led ICRU since its founding in 2006, has entered phased retirement and will step down on July 1, 2024. Kirby recently received a Hancher-Finkbine Medallion in recognition of his leadership of the center as well as in the Honors Program, including the establishment of the Honors Program external advisory board, the honors outreach ambassadors, the honors peer mentors, and the ICRU ambassadors.

ICRU, a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Research, recently underwent a review by a committee of faculty and administrators. Among the committee’s recommendations are positioning ICRU as the central hub for championing undergraduate research on campus, increasing undergraduate research positions, and strengthening and expanding opportunities to mentor undergraduate researchers.

“Undergraduate research is a formative experience for many Hawkeyes, with one in three undergraduate students completing a research experience before graduating,” said Marty Scholtz, vice president for research. “We are excited about the road map that this strategic review provides to position ICRU to support even more undergraduate researchers and mentors across campus.”

Faculty, staff, and students can meet Tibbits at an ICRU Open House 9:30-11 a.m., Friday, June 2, at the ICRU Office in 6 Gilmore Hall. No RSVP is required to attend.