Fisher to become VP of research at University of New Mexico

Ellen Fisher will become vice president of research at the University of New Mexico after more than 27 years with Colorado State University.

Fisher, currently assistant vice president for strategic initiatives in the CSU Office of the Vice President for Research, will begin her role at UNM Feb. 22, 2021. In her new position, she will catalyze efforts to enhance research and academic excellence while addressing major global challenges and the pressing needs of New Mexico.

Leaving a legacy

Fisher received a bachelor of science in chemistry and mathematics from Texas Lutheran University in 1986 and a Ph.D. in physical-analytical chemistry from the University of Utah in 1991. She completed postdoctoral research at Sandia National Labs before joining the CSU faculty in 1993. Fisher has published over 160 original peer-reviewed articles across several disciplines and mentored 31 graduate students and more than 50 undergraduate research students.

Fisher has been an integral part of the Department of Chemistry as a professor and later as department chair from 2009 to 2014. In 2014, she added administration to her research repertoire and began working with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

“Ellen’s work in the Office of Vice President of Research embodied the land-grant spirit of helping faculty and students achieve their goals in discovery and education,” said Alan Rudolph, vice president for research for CSU. “She will leave a lasting legacy in our office and we are excited to see her begin her new journey leading UNM research.”

Ellen Fisher portrait

Career accomplishments

Among her many career accomplishments, Fisher has helped incorporate ethics topics and concepts into classrooms; promoted women in science through the CSU Women’s Studies program, and created opportunities for graduate students university-wide to be recognized and funded for outstanding research through the VPR Graduate Student Fellows. Fisher also created a new institutional Analytical Resources Core facility now under the OVPR through the merger of three facilities formerly housed under individual units, and has spearheaded the Research Safety Culture Program to promote safety in all research spaces.

Fisher’s research group has provided insight into the fundamental chemistry of very complex systems, namely plasmas, partially ionized gases that have a plethora of different types of reactive species. Her group works on better understanding how each one affects the overall chemistry of the system. Her work has many applications across different types of materials-based applications, including semiconductors, solar cells, biocompatible polymers, and pollution remediation.

“CSU has been an amazing place for me to establish and grow my career,” said Fisher. “I have had enormous opportunities to explore a wide range of research themes, to create new programs, and to develop my leadership skills. Without question, it has been my honor to be associated with CSU for so many years – I love the CSU Ramily and I know my relationship with it will continue.”

Awards and recognition

Fisher was awarded the 2020 Plasma Prize from the American Vacuum Society in the Plasma Science and Technology Division, only the second woman to receive this honor in the history of the award. She received an NSF CAREER award and was named an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar. Fisher was recognized as an American Chemical Society Fellow in 2015 and a Distinguished Alumnus by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah in 2017. She is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society and the American Vacuum Society.

She has received numerous awards from CSU, including the Jack E. Cermak Outstanding Graduate Advisor Award; the Natural Sciences Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research; and the Hazaleus Award for Empowering Women. She is a College of Natural Sciences Professor Laureate (2009) and received CSU’s Scholarship Impact Award in 2010, the university’s highest award for research.

Lauren Klamm and Lauren Brigandi