Dr. Jeff Cheek is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (SUNY). Originally a researcher in the area of environmental health sciences, Dr. Cheek’s career spans over 30 years of progressive leadership experience in large public university system research-related operations, research administration and compliance.
Dr. Cheek previously served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Administration at North Carolina State University (NCSU). With oversight of Sponsored Programs and Regulatory Compliance Services, Dr. Cheek was responsible for the submission of proposals, negotiation of agreements, non-financial project management and administration of sub-agreements, as well as institutional regulatory compliance, conflicts of interest, export controls, facility security matters and research integrity. Prior to NCSU, as the Associate Vice Provost for Research Compliance and Operations, Dr. Cheek led the development and implementation of research operations at University of Washington (UW). His responsibilities included management and oversight of the Office of Sponsored Programs, the Human Subjects Division, the financial conflicts of interest program and the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee. Prior to his service at UW, he served as Assistant Vice President for Research and Learning Innovations for the University of Colorado (CU) system, where his duties included the promotion of research across the three-campus system with emphasis on regulatory compliance and multi-campus and interdisciplinary initiatives.
Dr. Cheek’s career experience includes oversight of two state programs that supported research targeted at reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with tobacco use. He served as the Director of the Colorado Tobacco Research Program, which funded approximately 50 projects totaling $16 million. Prior to that experience, he served as a program officer at the University of California Tobacco-Related Diseases Research Program with oversight of approximately 120 grants totaling $60 million.
Dr. Cheek earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in Public Health from the University of California at Los Angeles, and started his career in research serving as a research faculty member at the University of California, Davis. His research generated 15 peer reviewed articles and two patents.
Dr. Synakowski serves as the Vice President for Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). In this role, he serves as the university’s chief research officer and works towards developing research strategies, identifying and nurturing research partnerships, and strengthening research and administration infrastructure to enable scaling of the UNLV research enterprise to substantially higher levels of intensity. He is also professor in the Physics and Astronomy department at UNLV, and adjunct professor in the Physics and Astronomy department at the University of Wyoming (UW).
Prior to coming to UNLV in 2021, Dr. Synakowski served as Vice President of Research and Economic Development at UW. There, he led strategic planning to promote interdisciplinary research and scholarship, and introduced reforms to strengthen research administration and economic stimulus programs. He also served as associate director of science for fusion energy sciences in the U.S. Department of Energy from 2009-2017 and was responsible for strategic planning, budget formulation, and project construction oversight. In this capacity, he served on the governing board of the international project ITER, aimed at demonstrating the scientific feasibility of fusion energy. He was awarded the Secretary of Energy’s Meritorious Service Award in 2017.
Before this, Synakowski served as the Fusion Energy Program (FEP) Leader and as the Deputy Division Leader At-Large of the Physics Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and as the Head of Research for the National Spherical Torus Experiment at Princeton University's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). His administrative work was preceded by research in energy and fusion fuel transport performed at PPPL, most notably on the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at PPPL, and in collaboration with private industry. He has published more than 160 peer-reviewed journal articles, receiving awards for excellence in plasma physics research from Princeton University and the American Physical Society. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin, and a bachelor of arts in physics from Johns Hopkins University, where he received the Kerr Medal for Excellence in Physics. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the UK’s Institute of Physics.