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Advancing Ambition

The Research Institute was established to grow Saint Louis University’s research capabilities and affirm the University’s path to becoming the world’s leading Jesuit research university. The Institute’s vision is closely aligned with SLU’s strategic plan, which calls for the University to make research a core part of its identity and to increase total research output.

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Research by the Numbers

  • 200+
    Years of Discovery
  • $53M
    Grant Revenue
  • 20+
    Regional Partnerships
Pictured: Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield pose for a photograph in front of the historic Samuel Cupples House on the campus of Saint Louis University

Made Possible By a Historic Commitment

The Research Institute was established following a historic gift from Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield in August 2018: $50 million — the largest single gift in the University’s history — to accelerate research growth at the University and place SLU on the path to becoming a preeminent research university.

Goals of the Research Institute

  1. Achieve and sustain annual research expenditure growth that places SLU among the fastest growing universities in the country
  2. Establish eminence in strategic, university-wide research priority areas
  3. Raise the profile and reputation of SLU as a world-class research university in the St. Louis area and around the world
  4. Recruit and retain world-class research leaders and provide significant investments in their work
  5. Leverage the initial gift from Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield and Rex Sinquefield to increase federal, industry, and philanthropic funding for research done at SLU

Research Institute Leadership

Headshot of Kenneth A. Olliff

Kenneth A. Olliff

Vice President for Research
Director of SLU Research Institute

Ken Olliff serves as vice president for research and partnerships at Saint Louis University, a role that he has held since July 2016. Olliff is responsible for growing the scale and eminence of SLU’s research enterprise, fostering an innovative research culture, building areas of distinctive strength, and raising SLU’s profile as a preeminent research university. Olliff also oversees SLU’s research innovation efforts, working closely with St. Louis’ innovation and entrepreneurship community to translate research discoveries into the marketplace.

In fall 2018, Olliff oversaw the creation and now serves as director of the Saint Louis University Research Institute. Founded through a 10-year, $50 million gift from Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, the vision for the Research Institute is to set SLU on a path to becoming the world’s leading Jesuit research university.

Olliff serves as chair of the Program Committee for the Cortex Innovation Community and on the board of the Center for Creative Arts in St. Louis. He is a member of the St. Louis BioSTL Coalition, the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Mission Science Council, and the Governing Council of Washington University’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences.

Olliff joined Saint Louis University after 12 years at the University of Chicago, most recently as associate vice president for program development in the Office of the Vice President for Research and National Labs. Responsible for managing UChicago’s research enterprise along with Argonne and Fermi National Laboratories, the Office oversees a combined annual research expenditures of approximately $1.4 billion.

Olliff received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Rochester, and his Doctor of Ministry from Meadville Lombard Theological School. He performed advanced graduate work in religion at Harvard University, and he holds an Executive MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Institute Directors

Headshot of Vasit Sagan, Ph.D.

Vasit Sagan, Ph.D.

Director, Geospatial Institute at SLU
Associate Professor, Geospatial Science

Vasit Sagan, Ph.D., associate professor of geospatial science, is the director of the Geospatial Institute at SLU. Also known as GeoSLU, the Institute brings together faculty and students from across the University to support and accelerate research, training and innovation in geospatial science and technology. The Institute is also working with government and industry partners to grow St. Louis into a national hub for the multi-billion dollar geospatial industry. These partners include the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the GeoFutures initiatives.

Sagan’s current research focuses on developing state-of-the-art remote sensing and GIS tools, AI/machine learning, climate change detection, and geospatial analytics. Sagan’s work involves utilizing these tools and technologies to address the growing issue of food and water insecurity.

Sagan has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications, two book chapters, and presented more than 100 conference papers and workshops. He has served as principal investigator (PI) or Co-PI on over $36 million in grant funding from several government agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), and NASA.

His recent work has been recognized through a number of best paper awards in multiple international conferences and scientific journals. Sagan also serves as an associate editor of ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and the U.S. Department of the Interior recently named Sagan to a three-year appointment on its National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC). The NGAC provides counsel to the executive branch on matters of geospatial intelligence and promotes responsible data sharing across government, as well as the private and non-profit sectors.

Headshot of Amanda Cox,  Ph.D., P.E.

Amanda Cox, Ph.D., P.E.

Director, WATER Institute
Associate Professor, Civil Engineering

Amanda Cox, Ph.D., P.E., is the director of the Water Access Technology, Environment and Resources (WATER) Institute at SLU. Located in the City of St. Louis and at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, the WATER Institute aims to advance water innovation to serve humanity. 

Cox’s own research activities cover a wide range of topics related to water movement. She has conducted studies on river engineering, sediment transport, urban drainage, stream restoration, bridge pier scour, hydraulic structures and erosion control. Cox uses a variety of research methods including numerical simulations, physical modeling, direct field measurements and remote sensing.  Through her research, she applies advanced technologies in novel ways to observe and model water and sediment flow behavior.  

Headshot of Ruqaiijah Yearby, J.D., M.P.H.

Ruqaiijah Yearby, J.D., M.P.H.

Executive Director and Co-Founder, Institute for Healing Justice and Equity
Professor of Law, Center for Health Law Studies

Ruqaiijah A. Yearby, J.D., M.P.H., professor of law in the Center for Health Law Studies, is the executive director of the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity. The Institute is a multidisciplinary group of faculty, staff, collaborators and partners working together to eliminate disparities caused by systemic oppression through systems change and deep community partnership. Through research, training, community engagement, and public policy development, the Institute focuses on building equitable communities by assessing and promoting best practices that foster healing from social injustice, trauma, and oppression.

Yearby, who is also a co-founder of the Institute, is a specialist in the structural determinants of health care, the intersection of employment and health care, and justice in medical research. Her storied career has been defined by addressing and advocating for improvements in the lives of vulnerable populations by addressing the lack of equal access to quality health care. 

Through her research and work with community groups, Yearby advocates for equal access to quality health and fair wages for racial and ethnic minorities, women, and the economically disadvantaged. Her research explores the ways these groups of people are barred from equal access to quality health care through society, law, and health care structures. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Bioethics, Health Affairs, and the Oxford Journal of Law and the Biosciences and used in law, medical, and social science classes at schools such as Harvard, NYU, Fordham, and the University of California Berkeley. Yearby's research and published works have been used in support of bills such as Connecticut House Bill No. 6662, declaring racism as a public health crisis.

Headshot of Leslie Hinyard,  Ph.D., M.S.W.

Leslie Hinyard, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Executive Director, AHEAD Institute
Chair and Associate Professor, Health and Clinical Outcomes Research

Leslie Hinyard, Ph.D., M.S.W., is the executive director of the Advanced HEAlth Data (AHEAD) Institute at SLU. The AHEAD Institute is a comprehensive center for data-driven innovation and research aimed at improving the health of individuals and populations.

Hinyard has expertise in secondary data analysis including national survey research, large administrative claims databases, and research involving electronic medical records as well as analysis of prospective and observational studies. Her research focuses on health disparities and health equity, health-related quality of life, and psychosocial needs of cancer patients. Additionally, she works with an interdisciplinary group of researchers to improve training for interprofessional health care clinicians for improvements in advance care planning and palliative care. Hinyard earned her Master of Social Work degree from Washington University in Saint Louis and her Ph.D. in Public Health Studies from Saint Louis University.

Headshot of John Tavis, Ph.D.

John Tavis, Ph.D.

Director, SLU Institute for Drug and Biotherapeutic Innovation
Professor, Molecular Virology

John Tavis, Ph.D., professor of molecular virology, is director of the SLU Institute for Drug and Biotherapeutic Innovation (SLU-IDBI). SLU-IDBI is a multidisciplinary association of researchers with a shared interest in drug and biotherapeutic discovery and development to address unmet patient needs.

Tavis has studied the HBV replication mechanisms, HBV reverse transcriptase’s metabolism and non-catalytic roles in the cell, and biochemistry of viral reverse transcription since 1992. He serves as the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council for the molecular biology of the Hepatitis B Viruses Meeting and as a member of the council for Extramural Grants at the American Cancer Society. His research focus is currently on basic biochemistry of the HBV ribonuclease H and developing drugs to suppress HBV replication that target this essential enzyme. Notably, Tavis received the Society’s Mission Hero Award in 2018 for his efforts on behalf of the American Cancer Society. 

Headshot of Andrew. F. Hall, D.Sc.

Andrew. F. Hall, D.Sc.

Director, SLU Center for Additive Manufacturing (SLU-CAM)
Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Andrew F. Hall, D.Sc., associate professor of biomedical engineering, is the director of the SLU Center for Additive Manufacturing (SLU-CAM), which is a resource for 3D printing, computer aided design and related activities, available to faculty, students and the larger St. Louis community.

Hall’s own research interests since joining SLU include medical imaging, medical devices, and medical robotics. He works with interventional radiologists to optimize pro-operative imaging protocols to support emerging minimally invasive procedures. His lab is also working on image-guided robotic therapies for pedicle screw placement and laminectomy in the spine. His lab uses 3D printing extensively, including the development of 3D-printed objects with controllable radiopacity and dissolvable 3D-printed tissue molds derived from CT images. Finally, Hall works on the development of smartphone-based medical devices. 

Hall’s recent publications include work in 3D printing with controllable radiopacity, development of radiopaque microspheres for arterial embolization, image-derived 3D-printed tissue scaffold molds, and image-guided robotic spine surgery. He has been published in 21 peer-reviewed publications and holds 15 patents. In addition to his work at SLU-CAM, Hall mentors graduate and doctoral students, and teaches courses in signal processing, medical imaging, medical robotics, and engineering entrepreneurship.

Headshot of Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D.

Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D.

Director, Center for Vaccine Development
Director, Stephen C. Peiper and Zi-Xuan Wang Institute for Vaccine Science and Policy

Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., is a professor and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology, Adorjan Endowed Chair of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, director of the Center for Vaccine Development (CVD), and principal investigator for the SLU Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU), one of only 10 elite NIH-funded units in the country. Under his leadership, the CVD has built upon its 30-year legacy of community-centered vaccine research. In December 2019, the NIH renewed SLU’s VTEU status, and in April 2020, a generous donation from Stephen C. Peiper, M.D. (Med ’77) and Zi-Xuan Wang, Ph.D. established a new center of excellence under Hoft’s leadership: the Stephen C. Peiper and Zi-Xuan Wang Institute for Vaccine Science and Policy.

In addition to his proven leadership, Hoft has earned national recognition for his contributions to science. Hoft has studied whether mucosal vaccinations and booster vaccinations enhance immunity induced by conventional vaccination. He was the first to demonstrate that human γ9δ2 T cells develop protective memory responses after vaccination, a paradigm shift that provides an important new approach for tuberculosis vaccine development. Among his contributions to the field are: the development of improved tuberculosis vaccines, the development of vaccines for Chagas Disease, pandemic influenza vaccine development, and conducting multiple phase 1-3 COVID-19 vaccine trials.

Recognizing his scientific accomplishments and excellence in teaching, Hoft was elected a Fellow of the St. Louis Academy of Science in 2018. In June 2020, he was named to the National Vaccine Advisory Committee which provides peer review, consultation, advice, and recommendations to the assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.